Facebook considers letting younger kids join
UPDATE: Vote on this issue on TampaBay.com's Facebook page. Today's Question of the day is "Should kids younger than 13 be allowed on Facebook?"
Facebook has long maintained it is a site for age 13 and older. Even though, as we reported here, many kids much younger than that use Facebook, it was an easy out for me to say "Rules are rules, you gotta wait." Well, now Facebook is looking at changing the rules. The company is testing methods such as connecting children's accounts to their parents' and controls that would allow parents to decide whom their kids can "friend" and what applications they can use. They are also considering under-13 features that would enable Facebook and its partners to charge parents for games and other entertainment, the Wall Street Journal reports.
I have to admit that one of the reasons I said no before age 13 is not that I think my son would be stalked or would behave badly online. It's that I knew the minute I said yes, I would have a lot more work to do teaching him to live online responsibly and to protect his privacy. When the 13th birthday arrived, I did actually encourage him to get an account after a long talk about not being an idiot online, respecting people's privacy, cyber bullying, etc. But I also got his passwords and on a regular basis checked on what he and his friends were posting. It has so far been pretty innocent stuff, party invites and questions on when the big science project was due, that kind of thing.
There were a few of his friends, however, who I am quite sure are posting things their parents would not approve of. Bragging about fights or foul language or sex. The Wall Street Journal chimed in with this helpful list of tips for parents on how to teach your kids to use social media responsibly. But I would say the No. 1 tip is get those passwords and read your kids' email and Facebook posts regularly. And tell them you will so they know going into this they are being watched.
Social media doesn't have to be a bad thing. It can be a great way to connect with friends and family and way for tech-savvy kids to learn about news stories and hot-button issues from around the world. But do we really have to do that at such a young age?
How do you feel about Facebook reaching down to the elementary school level?
--Sharon Kennedy Wynne
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