How Young is Too Young for Facebook?

Would you let your first-grader on social networking sites meant for adults?
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What Karen learned from the seminar, which many parents and Facebook users haven’t, is that all account holders should visit their “Search Privacy Settings” page to determine if they’re searchable via Google, if they’re visible to everyone on Facebook, if their birthday, email address, etc., is being broadcast over the Internet. There are ways to opt out of such full exposure, and ways to manage “Friend Lists”—so not every friend sees everything—but the correct boxes and settings need to be checked. (For detailed information about using the Facebook privacy settings, visit Sophos.com.)

Read Keep It Classy: Protecting Your
Online Reputation

Another hazard is downloading “apps,” which are links to third-party “applications” that can do everything from giving you weather reports to propositioning all of your Facebook friends to have sex. (Perhaps Tiger Woods uses that app.)

“Middle-schoolers don’t have an understanding of damaging consequences,” Karen points out. “They aren’t worried about college admissions officers yet, or what an employer will see about them on Facebook. Just understanding the distinctions between Friends, versus Friends of Friends, versus Networks, is complicated. And then there are the member groups, like ‘Save the Kittens,’ that will suck them in.”

Suck them in? Suck me in! I’ve joined all sorts of groups (Save the Kittens isn’t one of them.) I need to un-join some, and check my privacy settings—before BettyConfidential posts this article.

Among Linda Criddle’s rules for a child using a social networking site is that the young person understands that being on the Internet is a “social responsibility,” and that “Internet safety includes emotional safety, physical safety, and the safety of reputations.”

To make things even easier – and safer – Criddle recommends that youngsters ages 10 to 15 use social networking sites such as YourSphere, Anne’s Diary, AllyKatzz and FaceChipz, each of which has stronger safety settings than the adult-oriented Facebook and MySpace.

There are real-world consequences to making mistakes in the virtual world. The stakes of social networking can be high—especially for the immature, impulsive and indiscrete. Maybe none of us is really old enough for Facebook.

Melissa Stanton is the author of The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide: Field-tested strategies for staying smart, sane, and connected while caring for your kids (Seal Press/Perseus Books). She and Internet-safety expert Linda Criddle are each working on chapters for the upcoming anthology Courageous Parenting, to be edited by Amy Tiemann and published in March by Spark Press. For more information, visit Melissa’s website at www.RealLifeSupportForMoms.com.


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0 thoughts on “How Young is Too Young for Facebook?

  1. khc1114 says:

    Yikes! Facebook in first grade?!?

  2. jfofdsf2 says:

    I am wondering why the author of this article felt it necessary to slam dunk Tiger Woods? I am ashamed for her that she felt the need to make scathing remarks about someone when there was no cause to do so. Her comment did not in any way improve her article, it only showed that she is possibly a non caring, vengeful woman with a lot of anger; who uses the internet as her personal outlet for hate.

  3. karen miles says:

    Hi,

    I Have kids of my own and didn’t like the whole “unsafe” virtual socializing! I get that she needs it, and she deserves it but not “unmonitored” doesnt matter how well behaved she is. A friend of mine told me about another website Tweegee.com, for kids in that age group! It is really great, it has virtual worlds, messaging,email, games, articles, folders for sharing pictures (that get approved- not like facebook or myspace!!) an approved vocabulary throughout the site, so NO personal information can be given out! And my kids LOVE IT! I would pass this on for parents who can’t sleep at night!! I would suggest giving your kids all the virtual tools they need, but “age appropriate” is key!

  4. alterego says:

    I’m glad Facebook wasn’t around when I was a teenager — I would have been nothing but trouble with it.

  5. darkshadow300200 says:

    I think that facebook is merely a way to pick up people, and there are way too many young people on facebook and all those “social” sites. Kids should be kids and not have to resort to the internet for friends or communicate with friends that way. play with them in person or talk to them on the phone. this internet thing for kids is too early. I dont care what people think of those comments, it is for the benefits of the kids who may come across a lot of idiots online.

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