About a month ago my daughter asked if she could sign up for facebook. A couple of her friends had just done it and she wanted to be a part of the fun. My reaction surprised me; I didn’t immediately say no. That took whole hours. I started investigating it, looking at it as a parent first. Of course the first message I sent was to Dave, asking for his opinion. What follows are some observations and a lot more questions.
The first issue I discovered was that facebook has a policy that requires you to be over the age of 13 to use the service. (My daughter is…not 13) Of course kids lie and sign up with or without consent of their parents. I began to realize that dealing with facebook with a kid is a tough problem:
- Letting an underage kid sign up means you’re agreeing to break rules with your kids
- Not getting them signed up soon enough may result in creating pressures that will encourage them to sign up without your knowledge
- Not letting them sign up wont allow them to build skills that will eventually be necessary
Beyond Facebook, there are a variety of issues that occurred to me:
- Major corps have issues controlling connections and content, how is a parent going to?
- Blocking \ controlling content in your home network isn’t enough. They’ll get access to the account elsewhere.
Controls I wish we had:
- Viewing any posts or messages to \ from my kid’s account
- Viewing any applications or content that get posted
- Better still, anything that appears to be offensive should be held until a parent reviews it
Finding a balance of safety, control and freedom seems to be the key. I do think getting kids engaged with social networks is a good thing if we can find a way to allow them to do it safely.
Beyond Facebook, some of the sites I looked at:
Webkinz (web site that accompanies the stuffed animals)
Togetherville (Most promising site in my opinion, links to Facebook for parents)
(I also looked at Kidswirl and Whyville and several others but wasn’t impressed.)
The Online Mom is a great website with a lot of articles that cover opinions on a wide range of ages.
This is still a work in progress and we’re interested in your thoughts. How would you recommend approaching this issue? What additional sites are you looking at for kids and what online resources have been helpful?