Sunday, March 13, 2011

My underage Facebook users

There's been lots of debate lately about whether parents should allow their kids to fudge their age for the purpose of joining Facebook (a disclaimer on the site says members must be 13 and up).

A recent NY Times article on the concerns surrounding the growing number of underage Facebook users (Read it here) quite rightly points out that allowing children to break the rules--even for what is largely seen as a minor fib that is necessary to let their children participate in the digital world--sends the wrong message.

I struggled with this very dilemma when contemplating whether to allow my two older children, ages 12 and 9, to essentially lie about their age in order to join Facebook. I wondered whether this would be a slippery slope. I constantly try to convey the value of honesty to them. Was I undermining myself as a parent by allowing this?

After much pleading from the kids--and with full access to passwords, maximized privacy settings and constantly supervised computer time--I decided to allow both to join Facebook. With proper controls in place, I really had no problem with the kids having access to the site, but what really got me--and still gets me to this day--is the idea of giving approval to lying about their age. So far, there've been no problems. Yet I still struggle with the mixed message.What happens if/when I have to lay down the law with regard to fake IDs and the many other issues that will inevitably arise?

Do you have underage Facebook users in your home? What do you think: is it a problem for kids of all ages to inflate their age for social networking purposes, or is it no big deal? I'd love to hear from you.

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