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Facebook for tweens?

June 6, 2012

Facebook has about 900 million users, but that isn’t enough. Now it’s getting ready to go after the tween crowd. According to Mashable:

“Facebook may be preparing a membership option for children under 13, allowing them to access the social network under parental supervision, according to a report.

The new option will allow children under 13 to have accounts linked to those of their parents, the Wall Street Journal says. Parents will be able to control who their children add as friends and which apps they use. The new features may also allow Facebook to charge parents for games and entertainment their children access.”

There’s the argument that many kids younger than 13 are already on Facebook (some with their parents helping them lie about their ages to bypass Facebook’s rules) and it’s better to allow the behavior with parameters rather than keep trying to enforce the rules. I don’t buy that.

There are lots of kids doing grown-up things. Kids try to push the age limits all the time – that’s their job. But a parent’s job is to push back and say “No. I am going to make sure you have a childhood whether marketers and technology like it or not.”

I don’t really care what age limits Facebook and the FTC put on children online. Parents should make the rules that govern their children, not regulators or corporations. In a few years when my son is begging for a Facebook account (and probably trying to sneak and create one on his own!), I will use it as a opportunity for a conversation – the same conversation we’ve had about SpongeBob on cereal boxes, shoes that light up and all the other gimmicks companies use to lure us, our dollars and now our personal information. I’ll tell him we’re smarter than that.

And if my son wants to connect more with his friends, then let’s invite them over. Shared experience is how real relationships form. Then he and his friends can all stay in touch by friending each other when they go off to college!

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