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:
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!