Should Your Kids use Facebook? It’s a pretty straightforward question and, for most parents, the answer is No. But, life is never that simple. This raises other issues: should kids have a mobile phone, or a Playstation, or big Macs? Here are some dos and don’ts.
Should Kids Be on Facebook?
The first point is that Facebook is, I believe, for over 18s. But, it’s a real world and under 18s get into pubs, bars, movies and so on.
Of course, this doesn’t make it right or justify shoddy monitoring.
Nor, does it abdicate responsibility from the store owners or Facebook.
Strictly speaking in an ideal world kids wouldn’t be on Facebook, right?
But, if they are not on Facebook, then where do they hang out online?
Why Kids Use Facebook
With the breakdown of the family unit and the tendency of kids to spend more time indoors – getting them out of the house is an issue now – it’s understandable that they want to connect online.
- Kids use Facebook to connect with each other. It’s a logical extension of texting each other, which paradoxically is another issue.
- Kids use Facebook to express themselves.
- Kids use Facebook to connect with distant friends.
- Kids use Facebook as they are more digital savvy. What’s an issue to you is the norm to them.
- Kids use Facebook to form groups (as they do offline) and share information with their inner circle.
- Kids use Facebook to demonstrate loyalty to each other. I’ll friend you but not him.
How Kids Abuse Facebook
But then there is the less pleasant side.
- Kids use Facebook to intimidate others – as they do offline.
- Kids use Facebook to exclude others – as they do offline.
- Kids use Facebook to isolate themselves – as they do offline.
The pattern here is that most of what happens is mirrored offline.
The difference is that the expression – eg likes v party invitation – has changed.
Kids on Facebook – Dos and Don’ts
I lived in the UK, USA, and China most of my adult life. My spectrum of friends is worldwide. Indeed I have more distant friends than local ones. Sound familiar?
And our kids are the same. Thus the attraction of Facebook when they want to connect.
But this still doesn’t explain how to manage Facebook when your kids want to use it. So, here’s what we did.
- Tell them that you will periodically check their Facebook page to make sure all is well. Don’t spy on them. Be honest and they will respect you more.
- Before they use Facebook explain how it works. Show them how you use Facebook’s security settings.
- Change their privacy settings so that only friends – and not friends of friends – can see their pictures, posts etc.
- Explain what to do if/when they start to get bullied, harassed etc.
- Remind them that not everyone will accept your friend request.
- Change the Facebook settings to Https so the connection is more secure and others can’t hack into it. See Privacy settings.
- Teach them how to create a strong password.
Like I said, the easy option would be to ban Facebook in the house. But this can backfire.
Studies have shown that discussing these issues – and other sensitive issues such as alcohol usage, drugs etc – is more productive than hiding and pretending that it will go away.
The challenge is to help your child navigate its way through life. Facebook is one of the many little journeys they will have to make.
The challenge for us is to show – not tell – the best ways to use these tools to enhance their life.
These are some ideas I quickly put together this Sunday morning before we head off to mass, so forgive the poor grammar in parts.
Please share your thoughts – and this blog post – with your friends.