Parents wait until their children are one to introduce whole milk; wait until they are two to introduce peanuts and wait until the age of four to use booster seats. So waiting until your child is 13 before launching their own Facebook page shouldn’t be a problem, right?
But instead, many parents are helping children create Facebook pages and Twitter accounts by lying about their child’s birth year in order to meet online social network organizations minimum requirement to be at least 13 years of age. MySpace’s minimum age requirement is also 13.
Any accounts that are for children under 13 and have been fudged to look appropriate are subject to deletion.
ÛÏWe take safety very, very seriously and think that educating parents about protecting their kids online is as important about talking to kids about not opening the door to strangers or looking both ways before crossing the street,Û said Maureen O’Hara, Facebook-Corporate Communications.
Just because Facebook and Twitter are hot social networking hubs for people to find friends and families, doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for tweens.
ÛÏI believe children younger than 13 should be networking and communicating with their friends through after-school activities, not through Facebook,Û said Darlene J. Mech, Ph.D., licensed psychologist.
Just think of all the childhood obesity problems. Moving and playing is much more beneficial than sitting in front of a computer and meeting strangers.
ThereÛªs also a big can of worms that opens when parents encourage their children to provide false information.
ÛÏWhile many parents wonÛªt see the harm in (lying about their childrenÛªs ages) and may even argue that the social benefits of Facebook outweigh their decision to lie about the age of their child, I think they are missing the bigger picture,Û said Darlene. ÛÏBy modeling to their children that lying or bending the truth is okay, they essentially give the message that it is okay to follow the rules when it is convenient or makes sense to you but it is also okay to not follow the rules if they donÛªt make sense or donÛªt seem to be Û÷that big of a deal.ÛªÛ
So rather than lie to get your child involved in online networking, start teaching your child now how to be safe online. Teach them to:
Û¢ Never share their password with anyone
Û¢ Understand privacy settings
Û¢ Report people that violate proper codes of conduct
Û¢ Block anyone that might be sending unwanted content
Û¢ Watch their own use of language and comments
ÛÏWe strongly recommend that minors 13 years of age or older ask their parents for permission before sending any information about themselves to anyone over the Internet and we encourage parents to teach their children about safe internet use practices,Û says Facebook on their Safety page.
So when your 11-year-old approaches you to start a Facebook page for her because ÛÏeveryone else is doing it,Û use it as a teaching moment to take a stand and say ÛÏno.Û