Is Facebook safe for a fifth grader?
Adolescents are cyber smart and feel very grown-up using their parents social networking site. At present, Facebook has over 200-million users and the fastest growing group of new users is people aged 34-54, their parents. It is interesting to note that college students are beginning to leave Facebook as their parents log on, and it is hard to estimate how 'tweens disguised as teens are affecting the teen demographic.
What kids like about Facebook are real time status reports, the clever quizzes, and the ability to chat with another home locked 'tween without a driver's license. 'Tweens are also big fans of celebrity and love to join the fan pages.
Seems harmless enough, but there are a few things to be aware of if you choose to allow your middle schooler use Facebook. First of all, when you set up their profile page, use the settings tool to control who can see your child's profile, who can search for them, and what other users can see. A 'tween's page should have the most privacy possible to prohibit strangers from finding and friending them. There's only one drawback to this level of blockage. If two 'tweens have a blocked account, they can't friend each other even if they wanted to. The solution is to stand at the computer with your child while he or she "opens" their profile just long enough to friend their school mate. And then make sure the privacy control is reactivated once the cyber connection has been made.
Also, make sure you appear as a friend on your child's page so you can monitor their activity in your own news feed, and scan their friend list often to approve of friends. My child and I have an agreement that she cannot add a new friend over the age of twelve without my permission. When she inquired about a twenty year old male who had been a camp counselor at surf camp, I drew the line because of the potential for inappropriate material on his status reports.
Speaking of status reports, remember that many 'tweens are reading yours. Since 'tweens don't have many contemporaries online, they often friend their pals friendly parents. And, to be kind, many well-meaning Moms allow neighborhood kids to be their Facebook friends. Then those parents promptly forget that tender eyes and ears are buried in their sea of friends....potentially exposing them to some spicy language in their status reports.
Another thing to consider, if your child plans to have a long relationship with the social networking giant, they are unknowingly giving up plenty of info about themselves. Every time they complete a cute quiz, Facebook is gathering marketing data on your child and their profile page will be targeted by advertisers. So, when he/she posts the cute game called "Five Things Within My reach Now," or "Five Things I Want for my Birthday," you can rest assured that they will be bombarded with ads for similar products just before that birthday rolls around.
Finally, Facebook doesn't do any identity verification. So immature 'tweens can set up fake accounts and do some real-world social damage, even if your child isn't on Facebook. I recently met one father of a 12-year-old girl who forbid his daughter from having a Facebook account. So, some enterprising boys in her class set up a fake one with her name and quickly acquired 28 school friends. Then they went to work wrecking havoc with her social life. Masquerading as the young girl, they posted evil gossip and broke up all kinds of friendships. By the time this young girl walked onto campus next, she was completely ostracized. The parents and principal staged an investigation and the boys were caught and disciplined. In this case, the danger for this girl wasn't Facebook. It was the fact that she was NOT on Facebook.
It's up to you, to allow your 'tween a Facebook account. It must have been so much easier to be a mom when our kids only had Barbies and GI Joes to play with.
|Dr. Wendy Walsh holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and her area of interest is Attachment Theory, a psychological, evolutionary and ethological theory that provides a descriptive and explanatory framework for understanding interpersonal relationships between human beings. As a psychological assistant registered with the California Board of Psychology, Dr. Walsh has treated individuals, couples and families for a variety of mental health concerns including personality disorders, anger management, eating and substance disorders, and depression.|