This is a question that has been lingering for the past couple of years. We know that kids under 13 are joining, but should they be?
The brave new world of technology has expanded so far that even your grandmother may have an account on the social networking clearinghouse that is Facebook. The fact that your elderly relatives have adopted Facebook, however, doesn’t mean that your child is ready to tackle the social media giant. When your tween is pleading with you for permission to start a Facebook account and swearing that all of their friends have them, these are 10 of the reasons why you might want to stick to your guns and continue to ban the site for a few more years.
- Bullying – Being bullied is a devastating situation, even for teenagers and young adults, but tweens are even more likely to be overwhelmed by bullies online. Kids who aren’t victims of bullying may also find themselves joining in with the crowd picking on another youngster in the no-holds-barred world of the Internet.
- Exposure to Questionable Content – Even if your preteen is never approached by a sexual predator, she’s still likely to come across photos or status updates that simply aren’t age appropriate. A child who doesn’t have a Facebook account may be protected from that objectionable content for a bit longer, though.
- Online Predators – Sexual predators lurking online are such a problem that entire television series have been dedicated to sting operations designed to catch them. Preteens simply aren’t equipped to properly fend off approaches from predators, and may be more susceptible to their techniques than older kids.
- They’re Not Technically Allowed to Have Accounts – If you don’t prohibit Facebook use for your preteen for any other reason, you should consider the fact that allowing them to start an account is tantamount to telling them that it’s okay to lie. Facebook doesn’t allow users younger than 13, so your child will have to falsify her age in order to sign up. Doing so with your permission is effectively sending a message that lying is acceptable behavior if you’re lying to get something you really want.
- Reducing Screen Time – Between television, video games and time spent online for homework purposes, kids spend enough of their day planted in front of an electronic screen. Facebook is just another way for your child to while away the hours in sedentary activity, rather than getting outside and being active.
- Preserving Academic Performance – When your child is supposed to be online researching homework methods or studying for a big test, his shiny new Facebook account can be a very serious distraction. Kids so young may have difficulty controlling their impulses, and may spend far more time on the social media site than they do actually working.
- Protecting Your Computer from Malware – You and your teenagers may have a basic idea of how to avoid malware and spyware sent out by unscrupulous Facebook users, but your tween probably doesn’t. Keeping your child off of social media for a few more years can also be your computer’s saving grace.
- Because Kids Lack Adult Judgment – The fact that college students post photographs of binge drinking parties and incriminating status updates at an alarming rate is proof that young people don’t always have the best judgment when it comes to social networking. For a young child, not understanding acceptable Facebook use could lead to them sharing very sensitive personal information that later proves to be dangerous.
- Friends Lists Can Be Difficult to Manage – When the friend requests start rolling in, your tween will probably accept each and every one of them because it makes her feel well-liked and cool. That can give some shady characters access to her profile, something she may have trouble understanding when she’s still so young.
- Tech-Savvy Tweens Can Block Your Monitoring Efforts – Some preteens may have trouble avoiding malware and managing a friends list, but others will be tech-savvy enough to filter their updates and change security settings that affect what you’re able to see. Even if you think you’re monitoring your child, you may only be seeing a fraction of the things she does online.