Baby Facebook: Parental Controls Or No, Kids On Facebook Means Mo’ Problems For Parents
By Denene Millner
The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Facebook is preparing a membership option for children under age 13—a new feature that would allow kids access to the social network with their parents’ permission and supervision. The kids’ accounts would be linked to their parents’ pages, allowing parents to control who their children add as friends and which apps they use.
Of course, a “Baby Facebook” would add, like, a bazillion more users to Facebook’s 900 million user base. And, of course, open the social media giant up to all kinds of advertising and marketing goodness in the lucrative children’s market.
But what, exactly, would giving elementary and tween-aged kids access to Facebook do besides line Mark Zuckerberg’s sensible billionaire hoodie pockets? The glass-is-half-full of us will argue, righteously, that giving kids official access to Facebook with parental controls will help parents teach their kids how to use social media responsibly. After all, studies show that of all the kids on Facebook right now, almost 40% are under age 12—many using fake names to go unchecked onto the site. Getting parents involved will keep the kids out of trouble—or so the argument goes.
But those of us who actually, like, have kids know better. Speaking as the mother of three—one college student, one daughter just days away from becoming a teenager and the third a tween—I can tell you without reservation that allowing kids onto Facebook is nothing more than mo’ social media, mo’ problems for us parents. You’ve got the cyberbullies, the cyber stalkers, the cyber trolls—kids who don’t understand privacy, keeping your dirty laundry off the streets and the ramifications of posting crazy pictures of themselves and foul words about their parents and loved ones on the internet. Having kids on social media is pure mayhem.
And it sucks for us parents.
Our job is to be the buffer between the public and our vulnerable kids; we protect them for as long as we can with a force field until that moment comes when we feel like they’re mature enough and know enough of the lessons they need to step out into the public arena without getting got by Dave the Dopefiend, Chester the Molester, Peeping Tom and all the other scary bastards that, as comical as they may sound in jest, really do exist and stand at the ready to hurt our babies.
Of course keeping our kids away from the scary bastards used to be relatively easier than it is today. With the internet, Dave the Dopefiend and Chester the Molester can creep right into our kids’ rooms, with us sitting right next to them. We got that rude awakening late last month when a dude right down the street from our home was arrested on charges that he used Facebook to lure two boys—ages 13 and 15—to his abandoned home to play video games and then fondled himself in front of them. Turns out the 28-year-old, who portrayed himself as a 16-year-old online, already has a child molestation charge pending.
So… how, exactly, do you teach a 10-year-old who still plays with dolls, is scared of thunder and forgets to brush her teeth how to spot a 28-year-old man pretending to be a 13-year-old girl? What parent is ready for all of that? Need I remind that just last week, Nick Chiles’ wrote right here on MyBrownBaby about a study showing that parents, particularly those in poor households and households of color, are being battered by a digital divide that has their kids riding the internet wave, even as the adults in the house haven’t a clue how to monitor, use or put limits on the computer, phone, internet and social media access their kids enjoy?
For real, can someone help us here? I don’t know a single, solitary 12-year-old whose life would be bereft of culture and development because she doesn’t have a Facebook page. Why pile on to the woes of the modern-day parent? For the sake of a buck? Who are we helping? What’s the effing point of a Baby Facebook? Besides giving Mark Zuckerberg the personal deets of another half million people so that he can secretly sell their info to marketers and advertisers? For real, if there were any brake pumping to be had, this one is it. Dear Mark: How about you and your lovely bride go make a baby and try raising it before you “help” us parents use social media to raise our own. #ThanksAndAmen.
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