Teaching our kids to ride a bike and make a profile.
How many babies are you friends with on facebook? I’ve got about 8 within my friend list, who every week or so post a photo or a status message with the caption “having fun with grandma.” Despite the fact that facebook lists its minimum age for having a profile at 13, enthusiastic parents often help their children (or do it for them in the case of newborns) setup a profile long before they reach 13. And while many embrace the idea of getting their kids started early, other parents are trying their best to keep their kids off of it, fearing the still not completely understood side effects of children and early exposure to social media.
Consumer Reports stated recently that 7.5 million facebook users lie about their age and are actually under 13. Many do so with help from their parents while others are savvy enough to check the “I am 13” box and set up a profile themselves. When parents are aware of and keep tabs on their children using their own facebook account, it is a known phenomenon that children will sometimes create a second account under a fake name that they share with only certain friends. They do so to escape their parents’ supervision while still being active in what is for them a significant social space.
In a recent article for Fast Company, Amy Jo Martin of Digital Royalty talks about the importance of teaching kids how to use social media and understand how what they do in those spaces can impact their future. She touches on that frequently mentioned reality of the workplace or higher education institutions where your digital footprint can influence whether or not you are accepted. Be careful what you say on twitter today, because in 5 or 10 years you might want that government job and they won’t hire you if your avatar is a marijuana leaf and you once tweeted how much you hate chemistry class. For Martin it is one of the new jobs of a parent, besides teaching social skills for offline life, teach them how to behave online as well.
What is clear when you consider the 3rd grade kids who make decoy facebook accounts to distract their parents, is that children are often way ahead of the game. It also shows that just like when the non-social media generation was growing up and parents were busy trying to instill the importance of good values and behavior this generation will also find a way to have fun and skirt heavy handed monitoring strategies. Back then people probably lamented “those misbehaving” kids and how they will suffer in the future, just as so many look at children online today and say “they’re out of control.” The more things seem to change, perhaps – online and offline- they also stay the same.
Source: Fast Company
Photo: HarcoRutgers / flickr