To Facebook or Not: A Preteen's Dilemma

Feb 15, 2013

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Facebook’s user policy clearly states that no one under 13 is allowed to create a profile on the site, but preteens everywhere are doing it anyway. An article published last fall talked about the ethical dilemma presented to preteens by this policy. They could lie about their age and join their slightly older friends online, but is it worth it or even safe for children that young to be online? The article doesn’t give any clear answers, but it does discuss both sides of the issue. Dr. Faye Mishna, dean of the Factor Inwentash Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto, brought up one safety issue that can arise with underage users on Facebook. She stated that there’s no question Facebook creates a platform for cyber bullying to thrive. So, kids just need to stay offline in order avoid cyberbullying, right?

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. A mother shared a story of how not having an account opened up her 12-year-old son to bullying. A classmate went on Facebook, created a fake account for her son, and then added friends from school. He then added pornographic content to the site and it was only when the son started getting questions from his classmates that he even learned of the profile. In this case, not having an account created an opportunity for cyberbullying. So what can parents do?

Dr. Mishna compared this dilemma to how parents currently handle underage drinking. Most parents tell their children not to drink, but they also make it clear that if they do go out and drink, their children are always welcome to call them for a ride home rather than driving drunk. This solution covers both sides of the issue. It makes the rules clear, but also ensures that there’s a way for kids to get help if they do break the rules. Maybe this same type of policy can be implemented by families.

Encourage preteens to not break the rules by signing up for a profile before 13, but have them come to you if they do. Kids can show maturity by allowing their parents to know about their account and monitor their online activity. This might mean parents have the ability to log in to their children’s accounts. Another option is to enable an Internet parental control software like Net Nanny that includes social media monitoring capabilities. Each family will have to make their own decision about this Facebook dilemma preteens currently face.

One thing’s for sure: responsible parenting involves keeping track of what your children are doing online, Facebook or not.

I work for Net Nanny and all opinions are my own.