I'm sure I just heard collective gasp of disbelief here. Yes, said it. No preteen child of mine (or younger) will be on Facebook. Ever. Period. Of course I understand the value of Facebook and similar sites. As a blogger, I utilize them every single day. These sites offer a great way to stay connected to friends, family, and even to businesses. You can chat, send messages, even play games and join groups. Facebook is a fun place to be, and is a very valuable networking tool. For adults, that is.
Facebook can also be full of content that no kid should be privy to. While Facebook is not (usually) pornographic, there are many photos and pages that I, as a parent, would deem inappropriate. My soon to be 12 year old son does NOT need to see lingerie and bikini models' public profiles with their tatas hanging out in all their glory. Nor does he need to see peoples' drunken Mardi Gras pics, etc. Heck, a good friend of mine who is very openly gay has photos from the Gay Pride Parade in Washington, DC. One of them shows him performing a certain, oral act on a phallic ice sculpture. As an adult, I was able to giggle at these photos. Does my child need to see it, though? Yeah, not so much. There is a lot of content that is perfectly fine for adult eyes but may not be suitable for younger kids. And no, not everyone keeps their Facebook privacy settings on lockdown like I do. So kids aren't truly protected.
Plus, there are many serious dangers that are closer to home and a whole lot more probable. Bullying is a real problem among kids today. My son has been tormented for years by a small group of bullies, all because he's not like them. My son is sensitive, loves the arts, and even likes fashion. For this, he is called "gay" and "faggot" and other names I refuse to publish for decency's sake. Is my son gay? I don't know for sure, and I don't care. As long as he's happy and comfortable in his own skin, his sexual orientation makes no difference to me. Not all parents are as accepting, and actually teach their kids to hate those who display stereotypical "gay" traits.
The bullying in schools is bad enough. But hand these kids a computer and unbridled access to the internet and it can snowball into downright torture campaigns. Kids feel "safe" and "invincible" when hiding behind a computer screen. They are more likely to take part in a group bullying effort online than they might be in school. They are also more likely to say and do things online that they wouldn't ever do in "real life." The quiet kid who sits like a little angel in school might be an aggressive instigator online. Add to that a ton of kids who want to fit in, and you can have a very severe problem, especially on sites like Facebook and twitter. There have been many, many kids who have become depressed and even committed suicide due to online cyber-bullying. This seems to be a growing trend, and no kids is immune to this risk if they're on social networking sites.
I know many parents who allow kids as young as elementary school aged to have Facebook profiles. Some monitor the sites diligently, while others do not. I am not judging or condemning anyone's choices as a parent. After all, each child is different and every parent has a unique parenting style. It is up to each parent to make the choices that they feel are right for their child. But as far as kids and online social networking goes, I guess I will remain the "unfair" or "mean" mom. I do not believe there is a place for kids on Facebook. Not until they're a bit older and more mature, and ONLY if they understand the risks as well as proper internet behavior. I know my kids won't be online as preteens, and when they finally ARE allowed to use Facebook (or whatever similar site happens to be popular) they WILL be giving me complete access to their accounts, including passwords and administrative rights.
Do you allow your kids to have Facebook accounts? Why or why not? How do you feel about this? I'd love to hear your opinions!