Bad News for Moms: Facebook Will Allow Kids Under 13

Janelle Harris

Facebook likeI’m not one of those people who puts e’ry darn thing about myself on Facebook. You’ll never find scathing rants about my exes, public feuds with friends, or self-portrait snapshots of me in a bathing suit. I keep it pretty lighthearted on The Book.

But my kid is on there. Her and about 7.5 million other underage users who have circumvented the flimsy age restrictions to get a page. I caved and gave her permission last year when she was 11 after I shot down everything else she’d asked for. No cellphone. No TV in her room. No movies without an adult. So Facebook was my way of comprising. A little bit.

Now Mark Zuckerberg is setting his sights on making Facebook a more kid-friendly place, saying he intends to lift the ban against 13-and-unders and make his multibillion-dollar brainchild educational for the Baby Bookers. Yikes.

It’s not that it’s been a big deal for us. So far, the Harris camp hasn’t had any major issues with young Skylar’s social media activity. One of the conditions of her being allowed to build her own page was that she had to add me, her godmother, grandmother, and pastors as watchdogs. She friended some relatives and enough mutual, real-life adult friends on her own that I’ve got eyes crawling over every status, profile pic, and wall comment.  

Just in case something slips through the cracks, though, the second condition of her induction into Facebook-dom was that she had to give me the password to her account so I can check her inbox. So far as I can tell, there’s been nothing out of order. Random chats about who’s cute and who’s not-so-cute, who likes who and who broke up, what he said when she said what he said to her. I’m cautiously optimistic that Facebook and texting are like modern technology versions of passing notes in class like we did when we were that age.

Even though I allowed my own daughter to join up as an underage member, I did it knowing she was going to be spied on. I also know there are kids out there who would have too much Facebook freedom, particularly if they were given reign to join on their own. So it’s going to take a really, really impressive model for educational programming to convince me that younger kids need to be spending their time on there. With so many other resources targeting that demographic, I just don’t see the need for them to hop on the back of the social media giant to in order to get their learn on.

Unlike many folks, my concern isn’t so much a fear of online predators. I know they exist and I know we’ve got to stand guard against them, but I’m more attuned to cyberbullying, even though I hate that term. (I think it’s one of those media-generated buzzwords that gets the public all hot and bothered but distracts us from root issues. But that’s another rant for another time.)

In the vein of that dreaded c-word, I’m worried about more kids being subjected to the aggressiveness that seems to go hand-in-hand with so many people’s online personas. Heck, sometimes my fellow Stir-ettes make scathing comments I’m pretty sure are way outside of anything they’d normally say to someone face-to-face. Being an internet gangster comes with the territory of online anonymity. So I’ve watched episodes when an in-school tiff between Skylar and her friends has been amped up because of a wayward comment on Facebook that was misconstrued, misdirected, or just plain ol’ wrong.

Mark Z. hasn’t elaborated on just how he intends to add this kiddie component and I’m sure the roll-out is quite some time down the road, considering the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act will prove to be a hurdle. But I say leave it well enough alone and leave young kids out of Facebook drama.

Do your kids have their own Facebook page? What are the conditions for them to have one?


Image via birgerking/Flickr

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