Would you let your kids join Facebook?
The issue of kids joining social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook is coming up in many households at younger and younger ages. I got hit up myself by my 12 year old, who argued that "all" of his friends have Facebook accounts. I know that's not true, but there are quite a few 10, 11 and 12 year olds on there with their parents' blessing. I had an easy out. Facebook's own rule is you have to be 13 to join so I said, "If we have to lie about your age to sign up, what does that tell you?"
I was ready for this question because of my colleague Leonora LaPeter Anton's excellent story a few months ago about tweens finding their way onto Facebook. I think it showed that really involved parents can allow this with some supervision and even use it as a teaching tool.
I have to admit that one of the reasons I said no is not that I think my son would be stalked or would behave badly online. It's that I'm feeling lazy. I know the minute I say yes, I've got a lot more work to do teaching him to live online responsibly and to protect his privacy. It will require a lot of monitoring. I do plan to say yes one day, because I do think that's going to be an important lesson to teach while they are still living at home. I just don't have energy for it yet, truth be told. However, I did recently let him have a Twitter account. But only his friends follow him right now.
When and if you do allow this, here's some tips from a networking expert.
Also, from Leonora's story, Bay Point Middle School teacher Lara McElveen offers these:
• Don't let young kids keep a computer in their bedroom.
• If your children must have a Facebook or other account, allow them to accept only friends whom they know directly.
• Have your children give you the passwords to their accounts and monitor what they do and say on there frequently. Everything he or she posts is there forever, available to be tracked by future employers and whomever else.
• Go into the settings and set everything to share with accepted friends only. Also, go into the privacy settings and make sure the account can't be pulled up on Google or another search engine.
• Tell your kids not to give out personal information, such as where they live or whether their parents are home.
And one final great idea I got from a mom of teenagers: Have your kids' Facebook names be something they made up so they can't be Googled in the future by a college provost or employer. Her kids use their real first names but her maiden name.
-- Sharon Kennedy Wynne