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Facebook, Other Social Media Fit for Kids?: Moms Talk

In light of a 12-year-old Washington state girl being charged with cyber-stalking, we're asking our local parents why they do or don't allow their kids to get on sites like Facebook

This week's Moms Talk comes to us from Kristina Bunnell, a member of our Moms Council. Kristina cites this story from Digital Life in which a 12-year-old girl from Washington state got charged with cyber-stalking a former friend.

Kristina writes:

While kids picking on each other is nothing new, being able to do it on the Internet opens up a whole new world of embarrassing and lasting possibilities.

What this girl did goes beyond "picking on" the other kid, but the article brings up an interesting point: The official minimum age for Facebook is 13.  

"Consumer Reports recently found that of the 20 million minors who use Facebook, 7.5 million are younger than 13, and 5 million are younger than age 10."  

Several of my 11-year-old son's friends have pages, though he is not allowed to have one yet. 

Dawn July 20, 2011 at 01:23 PM
I have a 12 year old that was incessantly asking for Facebook. My advice, just say "NO". I looked for advice from Focus on the Family online first and gave examples of how cell phone use and chores at home are examples of how she needs to show more responsibility before I said no, and she is a great kid! Also, the rule is 13, so I would be encouraging breaking a rule. I think it is scary how our children are becoming less able to communicate verbally, too.
Kristina Bunnell July 20, 2011 at 02:09 PM
Our son will not be getting a facebook page until he is atleast 13 AND showing enough responsibility. Mom and dad will also have the password to the page so we can keep an eye on things. I feel like setting up a page for him before he meets the minimum age is setting a bad example. It's important to teach your kids to be safe and smart on the internet-where you never really know who anyone really is and things you post can follow you around for years.
Emily Chesnic July 20, 2011 at 08:46 PM
WOW- I did not know you "have" to be 13 to have a Facebook page. I know numerous mothers who allow their children to have them, and these kids are 8- to 12-years-old. My children are little still, but I don't blame you at all for being concerned. My husband and I already talk about the strict rules we are going to have regarding the Internet and social networks. Kudos Dawn and Kristina for caring enough to set guidelines for your children. It is a scary world out there, and parents need to do their part to protect their offspring. It is sad that kids today are communicating more via text messages and social networks than face to face.
Jeremy Brueck July 21, 2011 at 02:13 PM
I do not think that banning social media use, or restricting it by age, is a reasonable approach to raising children in a digital age. As a parent of 3 boys ages 4-11, I'm an advocate for parents and teachers modeling responsible use of technology, including social media. I also believe that is is up to parents to help our children understand the importance and significance of a "clean" digital footprint in today's society. Parents, as our children's first teachers, need to model in everyday life what responsible use of Facebook, Twitter and other online spaces looks like. I feel that through this type of mentored and positive interaction with emerging literacies, we can build children and students who understand and know how to practice safe and responsible use of social media. This is the path I've taken with my children and we have been successful to date. By the time our children enter the work world, having an online presence of some sort will be an essential. I have already purchased the firstnamelastname.com/.org domains for all 3 of my children to ensure that they will be able to control the content associated with any website that would be publicly available in those spaces. A well known educator and blogger, Will Richardson, has written quite a bit on raising children in an online world. I recommend that all parents go to his blog and engage in this important discussion. Our kids futures depend on it.
Jeremy Brueck July 21, 2011 at 02:17 PM
A few suggested reads to share. http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/nov08/vol66/num03/Footprints-in-the-Digital-Age.aspx http://weblogg-ed.com/2008/what-no-footprint/ http://mashable.com/2010/10/11/social-networks-children/

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