As a social marketer by profession, I counsel on the virtues of Facebook to many different people and companies. As a parent, I’m now faced with my oldest child (age 12) pleading for his own Facebook account.
My wife and I have decided that the answer, for the foreseeable future, is no. There were arguments for (from him) and against (from us), but ultimately the decision is ours. Since we do our best to reason with our children, I knew I had to come armed with a good argument for our position. For the sake of others on the fence when it comes to social media usage for children, I figured I’d share some of the research and counsel in this post.
The next argument we considered was one of safety. Allowing social media access to those too young to properly deal with it opens them to possible exposure to any number of dangers: pornography, profanity, violence, and – most disturbing – cyber-bullying. The tragic deaths of Megan Meier and Ryan Halligan have taught us that bullying takes on a more dangerous and public tone when it happens online. In fact, this was the subject of this episode of Glee.
The final argument is one that is least tangible or evident. It’s the future. These children who create and use Facebook accounts are leaving a digital footprint of their lives – the good, the bad, and the ugly. This footprint will most likely be checked by prospective colleges and later, employers. A quarter of U.S. colleges and half of corporate HR departments currently do this, and that practice will only increase. With all due respect to my 12-year-old, he and his friends can be idiots (no offense to actual idiots), and that idiocy will be laid out like a résumé from hell a decade from now.
All this adds up to him waiting for – and griping about – a Facebook account that must wait for now. And I suppose I should present his counter-argument … that timeless classic, “But all my friends have it.”