There are generally two schools of thought when it come to social networking and kids. Facebook is either a great way for kids to interact with each other and develop emotional bonds with larger numbers of people or it’s a potentially dangerous time suck that prevent kids from having meaningful relationships with people in the real world. Either way, one thing is certain: The pros and cons of social networking shouldn’t be an issue for kids under 13 because they aren’t even supposed to be there.
But they are, aren’t they? Caroline Knorr at Common Sense Media writes about how many parents have a hard time saying no to their underage kids who want to be a part of the social networking community. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Google Buzz or YouTube, little kids are logging on with their parent’s permission. Why is this?
For many parents, it comes down to peer pressure. If all her friends are on Facebook, it’s hard to tell your kid that she’s too young. And besides, most parents who do allow their kids to set up accounts on social networking sites are pretty good at keeping tabs on their online behavior. They “friend” their kids and make sure they know how to behave responsibly online. They set time limits and lay down rules.
But what about those rules? In order for a kid under 13 to set up an account on most social networking sites, she has to lie about her age. And lying is against the rules, right? So, how do parents reconcile this contradiction?
I don’t know because I won’t do it. I am not particularly afraid of what my 9-year-old might get up to should she have a Facebook account. She’s a good kid who is mature enough to set limits for herself and steer clear of things she knows are inappropriate. But despite the fact that she would love to be on Facebook, I am holding firm because by allowing her to break the age limit rule, I would be consenting to behavior that she and I both know is wrong. For me, that’s a slipperly slope that is easily enough avoided with the word “no.”
What about you? How do you feel about underage kids joining grown up social networking sites?
Image: Franco Bouly/Flickr
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