Monday, April 4, 2011

How Young is Too Young on Facebook

Our son turns thirteen in two weeks. With the big date we officially say "goodbye" to childhood and dive into the teen years. It's also the day our son is wanting an answer to his yearlong question, "Can I have a Facebook page?" It's a question thousands of parents have to answer everyday.

So far for us it's been an easy question to answer. Facebook's registration requirement states that a person must be at least thirteen years old in order to have an account. Apparently, Facebook is getting more serious about keeping kids safe online by keeping them off of their site. I recently read that Facebook removes 20,000 under age thirteen profiles from their site each day.

It would be easy to say, "Who really cares? Who would ever know?" But there are several reasons why it matters. For one I would know...and my son would know. I've been teaching him that integrity is what you do even when no one is watching or will ever know. And that character is created by the small decisions we make. So to tell a small lie when no one will know and no one will get hurt, yeah, it still matters.

Admittedly, I've been a rebel my whole life. One of those types that questions everything and always wants to know "why" with any rule that is put before me. I want my kids to have a little of that independence and willingness to take risks but I also want them to see authority differently than I did. We want to teach our kids how to live under proper authority and that reasonable rules are a healthy part of life. It's not like Facebook has said, "You can't ever be on here," nor have we said that. They've simply said, "Not yet."

Sometimes delayed gratification can be even more satisfying than immediate pleasure. In a culture where most everything is instantaneous, won't it be worth it to wait just a few more precious weeks for Facebook?

By saying "No, not yet" has also given us a prolonged period of time to model for our son (and daughter who is right on his heels) how to use Facebook properly. We've had many conversations about what not to post online, being mindful of your comments to others online, and how quickly posts and photos can be picked up and reposted by others. Now he seems prepared for the plunge instead of being thrown in and figuring it out along the way.

I know many of you are in (or have been) in a similar situation. I'd love to know your thoughts on this issue. How have you navigated this issue with your teen or tween?