I find this all very fascinating. And before I get to the link with a survey, I’ll explain why I find it fascinating. A friend of mine with a 13 year old son recently had a problem with FB. Like all his friends, the 13 year old wanted to be on FB because everyone else is doing it. He’s a good kid and never had any serious problems in school. A and B student; gets along well with everyone.
So my friend let his son set up an account and my friend started to monitor the 13 year old’s posts. Sounds fine so far, doesn’t it? All happiness and love in the Internet age. The 13 year old will post thoughtful, meaningful sayings and quotes and photos about love and harmony. And he’ll live HEA.
But like most kids this age, the 13 year old knows how to navigate the web and how to set up his own FB accounts. And like all teenagers ever born to mankind, they tend to lie every now and then. I’ve never met one that didn’t and you can’t hold it against them. It’s part of growing up. So while my friend thought he was monitoring the real account, his 13 year old was having a good old time with the fake account.
The 13 year wound up getting into trouble over something very small…something he’d posted on FB. He was arguing with another kid about something stupid…like all kids do…and he told the other kid he would kick his ass if he didn’t shut up. The father of the other kid, the politically correct type, saw this and complained to the school…even though it happened off campus. My friend’s kid wound up with a three-day out of school suspension, which will remain on his record forever, because of a zero tolerance policy most schools have these days (they really don’t screw around anymore).
I’ve heard other stories that are more serious than this with kids on FB. And, my friend’s kid and the kid he was arguing with on FB are now best friends again. Kids do things like that, which is why they are called kids. They argue and they make up and it’s all forgotten the next day. But the suspension on his record won’t be. When he applies to college, it will be taken into consideration.
If it hadn’t been for FB, I’m not sure my friend’s son would have had any trouble. How many times do kids argue outside of school and no one thinks twice about it? They usually wind up being friends again. But once it’s in writing on social media like FB, it’s there forever and can be misinterpreted and turned around in many different ways.
I’m also wary about letting kids under 13 on FB because I know so much about social media, especially FB. It’s not a simple place to be. This morning when a newscaster in Philadelphia spoke about kids on FB she actually said something like this, “I don’t see anything wrong with kids under 13 on FB as long as the parents monitor it. I have friends who set up fake FB accounts so they can monitor their baby sitters’ FB accounts.” Yes, she said this on TV, without even thinking twice about saying it. She saw nothing wrong with setting up fake FB accounts to spy on someone else. This becomes a more complicated issue. It becomes a matter of ethics, not to mention safety. Fake identities on social media are probably the biggest drawback of social media these days. And to promote them, and laugh at them on TV, makes me think twice about whether or not kids under 13 should be exposed to it.
I also have other friends with kids in their teens. They do not allow their kids to be on FB until they are over eighteen. They are more focused on sending their kids to good schools, working toward getting them into good colleges, and keeping them away from things like FB. When I say they spend a good deal of their lives monitoring what their kids are doing in every respect, I’m not exaggerating. And these kids aren’t even on social media.
If I had kids, I’m not sure how I would react. I can’t say that I would embrace them being on FB under the age of eighteen. But I can say for certain they wouldn’t be on FB under the age of 13. That wouldn’t happen. The Internet is too creepy, it’s too furtive, and there are no signs of this improving any time soon. I’ve seen too much on FB and other social media to think otherwise. As long as the anonymity is perpetuated, the problems will be there. What someone will do with his or her real name and identity seems to be very different than what they will do with a fake name and identity. And I don’t like that. I would feel that it is my responsibility to protect my kids under 13 from that kind of environment. I kind of look at FB the same way I look at defensive driving. Everyone else on the road is a potential hazard and I take nothing for granted.
Here’s an article about the subject, with an interesting survey.