Face It: Facebook is the New Sex Talk with Our Children
In The Economist magazine’s June 9, 2012 issue there’s a short piece on page 18 entitled: “Facebook and children: Let the nippers network”. You should be able to read it at this link: http://www.economist.com/node/21556578 I will be quoting from this article in my blog post unless otherwise indicated.
The article can be boiled down to what it says at the start of the second paragraph: “There are two options. Facebook can either try harder to prevent children from joining, or it can let them in, but with safeguards.” This is the new frontier for most of us parents, the age of social networking via cyberspace. At a time when many of us are becoming parents for the first time and just barely catching our breath as we realized the responsibility of raising these boys and girls to be the adults of the future–we’re struck with a very real concern regarding what age is deemed appropriate for a child to begin interacting socially on the internet.
“Social networking does not cause cancer. There is no compelling reason why children should not socialise with each other online. What is worrying is that those on Facebook today are treated as if they were adults.”
While this statement has truth to it in its logical argument, I’m afraid it’s lacking the deeper problem that should be glaringly obvious. Just because a child can use the technology and can respond/communicate on a social network online doesn’t mean it’s right for them to do unfettered or unsupervised.
This may seem like a leap of a correlation to make, however, this is eerily the same argument we face when discussing ad nauseam as to when is the right age for youngsters to engage in sexual activity. So what if their bodies are physically able to engage starting from 10-14 years old, does that mean they should be allowed to carry on as if it’s their deserved rite of passage? Oh, but if we give them condoms and pills, that should take care of them just fine from preventing unwanted pregnancies–nevermind how this early sexual behavior may interfere with their physical, mental and emotional development.
“Far better to let children openly join Facebook and create a safer environment for them to socialise in.”
Understandably, we all understand that as long as we have rules there are those who will break them. The response to the age requirement for alcohol consumption is to have those who will attain illegal IDs. The current trend for those under-13s on Facebook is that they can enroll anyway when they lie about their age in the form. But the notion that we should just “let children” go ahead and do Facebook anyways as long as it’s “safe” is preposterous.
Q: What Is Safe About The Internet? A: NOTHING
Here’s the reality: you are the parent/guardian of your child(ren), therefore you are the most powerful gatekeeper when it comes to all the gateway rites of passage for your fledgling humans. I don’t expect Zuckerburg and his people at Facebook to be the shepherd of the social pasture online for our kids. That sentiment extends to any of these social networking sites.
The fact remains that we are still learning lessons today about what has happened to us since most of us came of age with integrating usage of the World Wide Web in our personal and professional lives. It’s aggravating to witness this hasty resignation attitude reflected in The Economist and other publications when it comes to the idea of children participating in social networking.
One more note on the internet: please keep in mind that no matter what your “settings” are, NOTHING is private when you post on the internet. Consider that when you put photos or written word onto the internet in any form, it’s as if you just submitted them to the marquee at Times Square in New York City. Please think about this seriously in regards to your children-whether it is you or them posting such things.
Nightmare Fodder: “Facebook and other social networks already have millions of vulnerable, clandestine underage users. It is time to bring them into the light.”
Why do we feel that we have no relationship with our children after they hit 5 years old? Statements like the above disturb my heart’s fabric because I don’t understand how it is that there are 10 year olds who are participating in social networking unbeknownst to their parents/caregivers while they have hardly cut their physical teeth in face-to-face contact with their peers and others.
Again, I admit that I wrestle within over my love-hate relationship with the media technology that our global society has exploded with since I was born. At the same time, I also recognize that there is not a quick and decisive answer to this social networking debate. We are on the ground floor of learning about it ourselves and how it affects us all, including our children. The question you and I must ask is what is best for our child(ren) as individuals and that will be the start of finding what “light” it is we want them to be in.