I am sorry, but I don't want to "friend" your kid on Facebook!
Guest blogger Tanya: I did a double take when Facebook suggested I friend him: "Sammy Johnson" (not his real name). "Huh," I thought to myself. "That's [my friend's] son's name." Then I clicked our mutual friends ... and realized with alarm that it was my friend's son.
He's four. Four. A four-year-old with a Facebook account.
I can't figure out for the life of me what a four-year-old would do with a Facebook account. Write a status update? "Playing trucks right now; getting hungry for some peanut-butter crackers." Fan SpongeBob (who, interestingly, has about 2.6 million fans already)? Or maybe join a group: "Having My Whole Body under a Blanket in Bed Makes Me Invisible to Monsters."
No. If a four-year-old is on Facebook, it's because his parents put him there. But why? Even Facebook requires that kids be at least 13 to join.
Kids on Facebook have been getting younger and younger. First it was the tweens -- parents would let them fake their ages, require privacy on all parts of their page and sometimes abbreviate their names so they weren't searchable. But now I see friends with six-, seven- and eight-year-olds signing their kids up, as well as the occasional preschooler.
Last fall, CNN asked the question, "How young is too young?" And the answer seemed to be: No one really knows. While there's plenty of research on teens and social media, no one's taken a closer look at how it affects younger children. The general consensus was that it doesn't seem like a good idea, but since the vast majority of kids use social media appropriately, it's probably no big deal.
That if-you-can't-beat-'em-join-'em approach doesn't sit so well with me. Sure, a four- or five-year-old might not abuse Facebook, but I've yet to hear one good reason for them to be there in the first place. We all complain that our kids grow up too early, then we stick them in front of the computer and let them play "Farm Town" when they should be on the floor playing with toy farm animals instead.
Trying to keep in touch with family? You can do that on your own page. Kids like the games? There are plenty of kid-friendly sites (Starfall, Funbrain, PBSKids, etc.) for kids to play on. You think it's cute when your kid copies you? You know what else is cute? Your kid. So log off Facebook and go read him a book or play a game with him.
What do you think -- am I completely old-fashioned and out of touch? Or do you agree that little kids just don't belong on Facebook?