Facebook – One Dad’s Dilemma

My 12 year old daughter has been bugging me about letting her get a Facebook page for about six months.  (She reminds me that she is 12 and a half.  Remember when half birthdays were important to us?)  Anyway, the “rule” on Facebook is that you must be 13 years old to get an account.  According to their site:

Facebook Safety

Children under 13 years old are not permitted access to Facebook. In addition, parents of children 13 years and older should consider whether their child should be supervised during the child’s use of the Facebook site.

“But, Dad, ALL of my friends have one.  I am the ONLY one without a Facebook.”  She pleads daily.

“Sorry,” I say, “The rule is 13 years old to sign up.  You’ll have to wait until April.”

Obviously, ALL of her friends have lied about their ages which is easy enough to do.  Nobody checks at the Facebook main offices.

So, here is my dilemma:  On one hand, the rule for a Facebook page is you must be 13.  She is not 13, so I would be encouraging her to lie if she were to sign up right now.  I have always tried to teach my kids right from wrong.  For example, if the cheaper admission fee to a museum is for ages 11 and under, we tell the truth and pay the full amount (even though I have short kids who could easily pass for the younger age.)

On the other hand, I am the educator who has been preaching on this blog for years that we need to put the tools in the hands of the “digital natives” (Thanks Marc Prensky for that fabulous term).  They are going to use the tools anyway, so let’s channel their use in the right direction.  Let’s give them cell phones to use in school for educational purposes, and let’s use Skype, netbooks, blogs, and wikis for learning in school.  I feel like a hypocrite when my child wants to have another tool to add to her social networking toolbox.  She already has an email address, a blog, an AIM account, and Club Penguin account.  How is Facebook that different?

Meanwhile, over the last few days, I have been following some bloggers who are writing about Facebook.  First, Mark Walker, on his Mark’s Learning Log blog has addressed this same issue, only he is writing about his students getting Facebook pages – not his own children ( It seems different when it is your own kid!).

Mark wonders if schools should or should not block Facebook.  I wrote a comment stating that schools should NOT block Facebook, yet I am blocking my own child from the site – Hmmm…

Then, on Durff’s Blog, Mrs. Durff writes:

I recently was asked to talk someone’s parents into allowing their child on FB. I spent the time explaining to her why we should NOT be on FB. One of my biggest reasons (and I teach in a Christian school) is that it damages our witness. There are far more people in the world that are convinced FB is a bad thing than those who are convinced it is a good thing.

She goes on to write about some research proving that kids on Facebook have lower GPAs than kids who are not on FB.   Finally,  Durff quotes the Bible (Ephesians 5:3), and in doing so she is making the argument that Facebook causes immorality and impurity.  WOW!  That is quite a stretch, and it is fodder for a whole string of future blog posts.

Anyway, back to my dilemma.  What should I do?  Should I allow my daughter to get a Facebook page now so she can connect to others (I would monitor it, of course, like I do with my 15 year old), or make her wait until she is 13?  Please answer the poll question below.  I could use some help!


15 thoughts on “Facebook – One Dad’s Dilemma

  1. Dave,
    I don’t envy your dilemma.
    I have two teenager children [14/16 yo]. They both have face book pages and use them extensively. In fact my son’s basketball club – The Melbourne Tigers – has a face book page to connect to all the under 18’s and talk about the game, post when coming games are on etc…

    I have a facebook page as well and use it to communiucate with colleagues in other countries.

    However I still have one main computer with a large screen in the main area so that if trouble arises help is not far away. I have had to councel one of my own in what is writeen as it could be interpretated as ‘having a go” at another person.

    What I wanted to say is that these dilemmas don’t go away – over the weekend one of my teenagers wanted to hire a DVD of a movie she had seen at the pictures with some girlsfriends recently – dilemma its rated R. Do I rent it anyway?

    I chose not to – they sort of understood. Its the right thing to do. She rented a few others and we moved on.

    Facebook – renting DVD’s not the same thing but the values you refer to are.

    Good Luck.

  2. Disclaimer: I’m a devout, conservative Christian.

    Mrs. Durff is misapplying Ephesians 5:3.

    But why follow up? You can’t argue with someone’s logic when it’s based upon false premises.


    I won’t vote on this issue, but the key is deciding if you’re more interested in following the letter or the spirit of the law.

    One solution is to allow your daughter to sign up, supervised, but only if you post her first update. Clearly state that she’s under age 13 but you’re assuming parental responsibility for the decision.

    That way, you’re honoring FB’s right to know that your daughter is an underage user, you’re honoring your daughter’s desire to join her friends, and you’re modeling the importance of parenting younger users of social media responsibly.

  3. I like Andy’s answer, but I also am really o.k. with saying, “This has nothing to do with using the tools. FB has a policy that users must be over 13, and as a parent and as an educator, I’m not comfortable with you violating that policy. Once you turn 13, you may use Facebook.”

  4. I agree with Andy…then again you could round up 12.5 ~ 13!

    Then again, I don’t have kids. But if I do one day have a daughter, I don’t know if I would be this lenient!

  5. Pingback: Mark’s Learning Log » Blog Archive » Face Book a dad’s dilemma

  6. I voted no to your dilemma, although I also felt it was not as simple as a yes/no answer>as you discussed, basically this is a very grey area.

    I might have her wait until a few short months away from her birthday and if she has displayed increased maturity, and the ability to properly behave in a manner that displays taking more responsibility for herself, etc. – then I would consider granting her permission for short periods of time until age 13.

    Every 13 year old is a vastly different individual, with varying degrees of discipline, maturity, etc. So, to pool every person of the same age and make a blanket rule doesn’t necessarily seem fair in the eyes of families that need to establish rules. For organizations such as FB, obviously they must adopt rules that are black/white just as there are finite rules on car seats.

  7. I would follow the rules. I raised two boys and taught them to follow the rules and if they didn’t like them to work within the system for change. They didn’t like it but they are now both over 35 and doing quite well. I don’t think religion enters into the discussion. It is a discussion of right and wrong, truth verse lies.

  8. Lots of people that have commented here have given their opinion of what THEY would do. The key is what YOU would/should do.

    I posted on the site of the poll’s results earlier – sorry about that, so I pasted in here:

    Dave, my belief is that the answer is simple, and you have already answered it yourself. You obviously believe in ethics and teach that to kids daily. You are also an advocate of appropriate use of technology. Technology is a tool to you and your family, and certain tools are better used in certain situations. Although you may feel hipocritical, you clearly aren’t. Which guides your life – your family or your website? Which holds more importance to you? It’s not easy to clarify this for a determined 12 1/2 year old, but you already know the “right” answer for you.

    For some religion isn’t a factor, for others it is. For some it is the fact that they want technology in their child’s hands as much as possible, others believe more strongly in following the rules to the letter. Whatever the reasoning, the right decision is neither “yes” or “no” to the full community, but it can be to each of us as individuals that are holding true to their beliefs, morals, and ethics.

  9. Dave,
    Great post. (I like Durff, but I think for every study that shows social networking can be a bad influence, you’ll find another that says otherwise.) I am a parent of 3 young adults/teenagers and I understand your position completely. I was all set to tell you not to give in to your daughter. Stick to the rules. I’ve heard the “But Mom…. all my friends, blah, blah, blah….” so many times that I’m completely desensitized to it.

    However, I really like Andy’s suggestion. I think that signing up with her, and agreeing to terms that include Dad has the password, Dad has final administrative rights over the content, and Dad can retract the agreement at anytime might be a good strategy. It’s all about engagement. If you build in the partnership with her from the very beginning, she might maintain the openess with the content on her profile. My kids joined after they were “of age” and it’s been really tough to crack into access for me. (I have my ways though 🙂

    Good luck with that! Parenting is such as challenge.

  10. Dave,

    My reaction is that this is a teachable moment. Tell her she can’t have a Facebook page, but she can have a blog. (Right off hand, I am not sure what logging sites may also have an age requirement. I am talking off the top of my head.)

    Furthermore, her friends could get blogs. To link the whole thing together, they also set up iGoogle pages and all install Google Reader as one of the gadgets. (Thanks, Facebook, for making the concept of RSS easier to explain. Everyone composes his/her own status posted to his/her page, but there is the status for all of your friends in one scrolling list. That’s really RSS in a nutshell anyway.)

    Blogs have been around around, long enough for the coolness factor to have worn off. We have Facebook and Twitter, and they each have their place. Yet. there are some things that can’t be said in 140 characters they can’t remain silent. I think this video really hammered home the importance of blogging to me.

    Just a thought.

  11. Frank,
    I agree with you. I have set her up with a blog, and she has a “life” in Club Penguin which is another social networking site appropriate for kids.

    I’ve seen that video. It is a good one!
    Thanks for the comment.

  12. Dave,
    I think it’s a great idea that you are having your daughter wait for a few months. It’s a good way to teach her patience and stick with the rules of facebook.

    While I realise you feel that facebook is no different than any other web site, it was originally meant for college folks to connect. It’s now becoming more popular with all ages, but it’s still primarily used by people who are of college age or older.

    Another point to consider is disgression. I do not know how mature your daughter is, but I know that even at 16 I did NOT have the disgression to not post in-appropriate things. I have a friend on facebook who is 18 and has NO sense of disgression, she posts every little thought that crosses her head; not a very good thing, I might add. I personally do not think kids should be using facebook until 16 at least, but as long as the child is being supervised I don’t see that being too big of a deal.

    I think it’s great that you are teaching your daughter life lasting principles and morals. Lying is not a good thing, even if they do it every day on the disney channel. Your daughter will appreciate it one day, I know I appreciate how my parents taught me.

    Thanks for posting.

  13. Pingback: Social Media and Young Children | The Principal and Interest

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