Today the Globe has a story about the dilemma parents face with social networking.
[Social Networking] It’s become one of the most pressing questions for parents of children growing up in the digital age: When should they let their children join Facebook or should they be on the site at all? An estimated 7.5 million preteens - including 5 million under 10 - are part of the social network in violation of Facebook’s terms of service, according to Consumer Reports.
I have nephews and a niece who are under the acceptable age for signing up for Facebook, but are on Facebook. I see the interactions they have with their friends and family. Sometimes I find it strange. Sometimes I find it cool (mostly because I can keep up with how they are doing in school, athletic activities, etc.).
Then I think about my own kids. They are 7 and 5 going on 20 and 18. They are very aware of social networking and in fact, are all over Club Penguin. They love it. Often times, they will ask if they can call their friends so they can find each other on the kid-only social network to "play."
Now, I know that social networking sites collect data to share with advertisers; that's the whole gist of this thing. I get it and don't mind it. What I have a problem with, however, is that while it's important for kids to have a good grasp on computers, communications and frankly, how the world works, it doesn't have to be in front of a device or screen all the time. We limit the access our kids have to technology. Yes, they are pretty advanced when it comes to using a mac, iPads, iPhones, etc. mostly because of who their dad is (me, the Apple obsessed parent). However, play time is a key part of kids growing up. Playing board games, toys, imaginary play, etc.
For me, there really is no dilemma for parents and Facebook. There's a reason that there are age restrictions on these sites. I would advise parents to either one, follow the restrictions or pay very close attention to what your kids are doing online. However, playing is important. It fosters creativity and so much of being successful in today's fast-paced world is thinking on your feet and being creative.
So kids, get off Facebook and go play.