It may seem cute, it may make some LOL, some may do it for peace and quiet and some may have given in to nagging from their children who in turn are being pushed into it by peer pressure, but I cannot help but wonder – Do parents realise the dangers of allowing their underage children to have a Facebook account?
I have two children, aged 12 and 9. My 12 year old asked 2 years ago to have a facebook account. His father and I said no. I must say I was reluctant at first to say no. As I work in Social Media, I know how to instruct him in online safety, I could make sure his privacy settings would be tighter than Fort Knox and I didn’t see any danger in him having an account. But my ex husband said no and I stood by that decision. 2 years later I am really glad I did. Lately I see an alarming amount of friend’s children joining Facebook, some of them as young as 9. At the school gates common conversations among parents are whether or not they allow their child to have a Facebook account.
It’s something I feel strongly about, I don’t view it as an innocent thing, a harmless piece of fun. Far from it, Facebook can be very dangerous to your child, and before you go against the terms and conditions of creating an account, there are some things to consider.
Here are my top 5 reasons why your child shouldn’t have a Facebook account:
1) They’re not allowed to join until they are over 13 – That is the basic rule, by bypassing this you are basically teaching your child to lie. It may seem a bit pedantic, but when did we become so lackadaisical about instilling rules in our children?
2) Without correct online tuition your child is not safe. – Do you know how to use Facebook’s extensive privacy settings? Facebook constantly updates and changes it’s privacy settings, do you keep up to date? Have you given your child an online security run through? Is their information hidden? Is their profile public or set to friends only? And if you have done all this, what about your child’s friends? Will their friends upload pictures of them and put them on Facebook? Will they tag your child in their status’? Without proper tuition in privacy, anyone could be looking at what your child is saying, their movements, their interests, not to mention downloading their photos. Could someone set up a fake profile? Befriend your child or send them a message? There’s so much to consider here, this should have a blog on it’s own.
3) Online bullying – There is no regulation in the Message function, unlike most child friendly chat functions such as those in Club Penguin or Moshi Monsters words are not censored in Facebook. How do you know what they are saying and what is being said to them? A few years ago Facebook was called to put in a panic button, and now has a report to a trusted friend button. It’s important to remember bullying can happen at any age however but with the instant prowess of the internet a simple playground scrap at home time could have escalated by the time they sit in registration the next morning.
4) Everything they innocently do online now is being recorded and captured, and their digital scrap book will be imprinted online forever. While it may seem far away, future employers will be able to search through Facebook, what will they find on your child? Children have no function to regulate themselves. They are still learning and just as they may like JLS one week and Justin Beiber the next, their world changes at a very fast pace., and while they may forget all this their digital footprint will be very ingrained by the time they leave school.
5) which is my biggest concern…
Facebook, while a great social sharing space, a fun place to hang out with friends, the cool kid on the block is a POWERFUL marketing tool. It is a business. Big Business. It’s a place where they want you to grow your friendships so they can learn more about you and build a consumer profile of you, so they can sell to you. They are only interested in your information. By the time your child is 16, Facebook will know them a lot better than you ever will. Facebook, with facial recognition technology, already knows what your child looks like. They know what they did last year, the weekend, where they were, what topics they speak about most with their friends, what they are into, what they hide from you. They will know everything about your child and they won’t forget it either. Facebook, with all this precious information will also probably be able to predict what they will do next. To Facebook, your child is a valuable statistic.
It’s scary stuff. It’s mainly scary because most adults do not know how to use Facebook correctly, people get sacked from work, marriages break-up, life long friends fall out, bad things happen. With enough bad things happening out there in the big wide world anyway, do we need to expose our children to the online dangers as well? For the record, I personally think 13 is too young and think this age should be raised. If something does go wrong, what will we do, blame facebook? It is our parenting that will let them down in the first place.
As a take away, you may read this and think, ‘it’s not that bad, she’s being dramatic’ but that is why it IS so bad. Test me. Go on your Facebook, type a status including the word, ‘reggae’ and then check your side ads. It’s a wolf in sheeps clothing,
and finally….My son turns 13 next year. I doubt he will be on Facebook then.