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Why I Don't Let My Son Use Social Media

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Guest blogger Maggie Vink: We've all had that "Huh?" moment when someone we don't know tries to friend us on Facebook. But I was surprised when I received a friend request from one of my son's classmates. He was too young to use Facebook according to the rules and, when I clicked over and saw his page, it was clear that he was definitely too young to understand what it means to be safe online. While "Facebook security" is a bit of an oxymoron, I personally employ as many of their security features as possible -- nobody but my friends sees my photos or status updates. Beyond that, I never put anything out there that I wouldn't want on the Internet -- no phone number, no address, nothing too personal.

boy using computer
My son's schoolmate's page, on the other hand, was wide open to the world and was way too informative. He was publicizing his phone number, had photos of his friends posted and tagged and he repeatedly left statuses about being home alone and other places he was going to be. Worse yet, some comments left by other kids were shocking. While the majority were goofy, age-appropriate comments, others were crude, sexualized or downright mean. Right then and there, I was glad of my decision not to allow my son to use any social-media tools. 

While I would ensure that anything my son used was as private as possible, I have no control over what other kids might write on his page, nor could I keep close track of everything he wrote on other kids' pages. Though my son is now 13 and technically old enough to use tools like Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter or MySpace, I know he's not mature enough to handle the responsibility. What's more, my son doesn't have a cell phone, so there's no texting, and while he has his own e-mail address, his e-mail is delivered to my in-box, so he has no e-mail privacy. 

My son is a good kid with a kind heart, but he has one issue that many kids his age share: He's more of a follower than a leader. If he saw others engaging in cyberbullying, he might tell me about it. But odds are, he would just keep quiet -- not doing anything to stop the bullies and not doing anything to help the bullied. Though I hate to admit it, there's even a small chance that my son might join in with mean comments. On more than one occasion, I've seen my son do things completely out of character for him just because the "cool kids" were doing it. 

My son has enough social issues to deal with while playing with friends or walking the hallways in school. He doesn't need the added pressure of social media. What's more, not allowing him to use those tools completely removes the possibility of anyone leaving mean comments for him online. I've been writing online for years, so I well know what ugliness the Internet's cloak of anonymity can bring out in people. Kids can be mean enough face-to-face. I see no reason for my son to be exposed to how mean kids can be online. 

The day will come when my son is older, more responsible and hopefully ready to handle whatever comes his way online. But for now, his friendships remain unplugged.

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8 comments so far | Post a comment now
Kimberly October 18, 2010, 11:24 AM

Good for you! FAR too few parents actually take responsibility for their children’s internet use etc. My 11 year old son remains unplugged from Facebook and has no cellphone either, and I told him he could get a cellphone at 16 and when he can pay for it himself :) Furthermore, all computer use is in the family room, where we can keep an eye on what’s going on. No computers in the bedrooms!

renee October 18, 2010, 5:25 PM

u mean as far as u know he doesnt have a facebook account.just because he doesnt have one from your computer doesnt mean he hasnt made one from a friends house.your page name doesnt have to be your real name so if you tried to search him out it doesnt mean you’d find him either.also how is how supposed to learn internet/social media etiquette if you dont show him daughter has a fb page but i HAVE to be her friend and i check her wall daily,if she unfriends me,she loses her account.and there have been times where i have made her delete comments or posts.its a ugly place on fb but can also be a a good thing. i have seen my daughter stand up for someone being picked on and she has posted thing for charities, fundraisers, etc sooo its not all bad.

Military Mom November 7, 2010, 7:21 AM

I loved that you wrote about this ever growing issue. My son is only 10 but all of his classmates (to my surprise) have cell phones, email address, and facebook accounts!! Just recently I allowed my son to create his very own email account and that was only because I was deploying. But I too had set it up so that I receive all emails that are sent to him. I was feeling a little guilty at first because I felt I was “prying” too much, but now knowing I am not the only one who puts their foot down, I feel so much better. And sure kids can always create their own secret accounts on their own, but that’s when you have to be a parent and ensure you are always monitoring your child and talking to them……talk to them long enough and eventually little secrets will start to come out.

ChaVale February 10, 2011, 3:07 PM

I commend you for doing what is in your power for your son, and his well being. The web can be our best friend and our worst enemy all at once, if, we are not careful. Its very wise of you to recognize your son’s maturity level, and to be honest with yourself about it. I respect how you handle the situation accordingly. I personally know some adults who post way too much info on FB and other sites. & they should know better!! Keep up the good work, your son will thank you one day

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