twitter facebook stumble upon rss

Is Facebook Safe For 'Tweens?

sign up for the momlogic newsletter Tweet This

Is Facebook safe for a fifth grader?

girl using computer

Wendy Walsh: Facebook's "terms of use" states that users must be at least 13 years old to have a Facebook profile, but that hasn't stopped throngs of 'tweens from jumping on the social networking site. Is Facebook safe for a fifth grader? The answer depends on the maturity of your 'tween, their peer group dynamics, and the privacy settings on their profile.

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.

next: Michelle Obama in Sarah Palin's Waders
17 comments so far | Post a comment now
Katherine August 22, 2009, 9:10 AM

I don’t think they should ever have let this site out of the realm of college students. Kids should not be allowed on networking sites such as Facebook or Myspace. Kids need to disconnect from the internet and be kids, you can get research info from books you know. They need to just do their homework, graduate, and then worry about an online social life.

kimi August 22, 2009, 2:06 PM

Facebook is so much safer than myspace ever could dream of being. You can set your entire profile to where no one can even see your picture or try to contact you. If you have it set that way, they can’t even send you friend invites.

I don’t think I would have any problem with our ‘tweens to be on facebook, but they’d have to have their settings set up in such a way that their dad and I approve of, and we’ll still be checking in on them plenty.

Chris August 22, 2009, 2:14 PM

There is a reason there is an age set on there. People need to see what their kids are doing, and keep to the rules. If something happens when they are online, it is the parents fault for not being involved, or just plain being stupid and letting the child do it. I don’t care how mature you think your child is. Rules are rules plain and simple.

littlepeapie August 22, 2009, 2:22 PM

Kids should not be on a social networking site. Period.

Anonymous August 23, 2009, 11:17 PM

I agree that kids should NOT be on social networking sites. I have 2 tweens and a recent 13 yr old.. neither of which have access to any computer in our home without supervision. fb and myspace is out of the question. Its completely unnecessary for kids anyway, why must they network, dont they go to school daily and see their friends?

Ted August 24, 2009, 3:08 AM

Did you say ‘clever’ quizzes?
lol now THAT’s funny.

Ted August 24, 2009, 3:09 AM

Did you say ‘clever’ quizzes?
lol now THAT’s funny.

akumaxkami August 30, 2009, 3:46 AM

I honestly don’t see the need for a child to have a social networking profile.

Children should be learning to socialize in a real world setting with other children before worrying about having internet friends.

MerrieWay September 1, 2009, 3:51 PM

Security is a critical issue. Computer addiction is the culprit that can rob childhood’s growth curve.7th graders are averaging 6+hours on computers, including social networking.
Real social interaction- with peers is a vital component in developing self-esteem, and ways to be and get along in the world.Monitor your child,don’t let their youth disappear in Cyberspace.
And, model yourself, if a parent is addicted to social networking, what happens to realtime family life.?

Melissa October 26, 2009, 10:30 PM

I was on facebook last month on an app when a photo of nude man’s crotch popped up. Facebook is not safe.

Katey November 22, 2009, 2:42 PM

I think Facebook is 100% safe for kids around 11 or 12 because you can set a profile block where only people who are their friends can view it. You can also use their first name and their last initial or their middle name. So any parents reading this should definately let their tweens have a Facebook.

Kim March 2, 2010, 4:18 AM

I dont think kids should be using face book specially when they portray themselves as 18 yrs old & so forth…what are their parents doing??…When my cousins young daughter was only 10 yrs old she had herself down as an 18 yr old…what sort of trouble is that asking for??…The child is now 13 & poses as an 20 yr old…same as most of her friends on her list. The parents just dont seem to care…Dont they realise that there are a lot of nasty people out there is cyber world…I have children & neither are allowed on my pc without me standing over them.

n/a March 29, 2010, 4:22 PM

i do not have any children, but if i did i would definitly allow them to have facebook. it lets them connect with friends they dont see everyday. facebook is a definite

Shell July 7, 2010, 11:06 AM

My child, who is 10 years old, actually dislikes Facebook, Myspace and a bunch of other social networking sites. She’s not very trendy and doesn’t have interest in texting, cell phones, celebrities, television, fashion or things related to what is so popular today. But I laughed one day, being a volunteer in her school, because one day they had an internet saftey assembly there. The woman “conducting” the assembly asked the 5th and 6th graders if they had Facebook or Myspace accounts. A large majority of the crowd raised their hands. Then she asked how many of them were under 13. Almost all of them put their hands down. I thought that so cute - - but there’s a dark side to those results. My point is: DON’T let any children in your household under 13 to have accounts like that. And if they do, monitor them VERY closely.

dede December 8, 2010, 1:55 PM

Hermila Hsueh December 30, 2010, 4:20 AM

Hello I’m getting a technical obstacle using your web site, I am given 501 pages fairly often, I am not very certain regarding why but when I refresh the webpage it comes fine.

LSAT classes December 31, 2010, 11:10 PM

Hello I’m keeping getting a technical issue browsing your blog, I am given 404 messages pretty often, I am not far too certain regarding why however when I refresh the web page it returns alright.

Back to top >>