With a spat of news reports about cyber-bullying leading to teenage suicide, I suspect that some parents who allowed their children to join Facebook might feel pangs of regret.
Not me, and here’s why:
Many parents worry that social networking exposes pre-teens to foul and hurtful language, taunting, and general filth. Those parents are correct. The minimum age for joining Facebook is 13 years old. Yet I allowed my 12 year old son and 11 year old daughter to join about six months ago. As simple safeguards, I ran their accounts through my email and I have each of their passwords. They also have friended me, and dozens of their friends–perhaps to puff up their friend numbers– have friended me thus allowing me to access their webpages. My son has more than 100 friends and my daughter has zoomed to more than 250.
Unknown to them, my children’s friends list and the accompanying web pages for each kid is now functioning as my growing database full of scouting reports on almost everyone they interact with on a daily basis. I can see for myself how my children conduct themselves around friends. I have begun to form opinions about my kids’ friends based upon their ever-changing Facebook status, profile picture, and commenting on each other’s photos and posts. I can figure out who among their friends not to allow over for a sleepover or a playdate based on, say, how often that child uses the word “fukken” on their Facebook status. There have been times when I’ve seen comment streams on Facebook between my children and their friends that I can compare to the accounts of the same events they give me face to face. In fact, it would not surprise me if someday I find out about my son or daughter’s first girlfriend or boyfriend first on Facebook.
So I guess that the bottom line is Facebook is a place where friendships are formed, memories are shared, as well as where F-bombs are dropped and bulllies bully– just like in the real world. Except all these things occur under the watchful eye of parents who want their children to be independent, exercise judgement, and learn to make decisions when Mom and Dad aren’t their looking over their shoulders–or so they think.