By Monica Wilcox
Consumer Reports just came out with some startling evidence about age limits and social media: of the 20 million minors on Facebook, more than 1/3 (7.5 million) are younger than age 13, the age limit set up by the site. Five million are 10 and under. The shocking news was that the parents of this younger group are largely unconcerned. Only 18 percent of parents in this group are “friends” with their child, and only 10 percent said they have had a frank discussion about proper Internet behavior.
Facebook responded by saying, “We appreciate the attention that these reports and other experts are giving this matter and believe this will provide an opportunity for parents, teachers, safety advocates and Internet services to focus on this area, with the ultimate goal of keeping young people of all ages safe online.”
Alright, let’s take this opportunity. Join me for a chat.
We Create, But We Don’t Monitor
The problem with most parents today is we don’t get it. How could we? We were the creators. We were the ones ogling over the power of Atari, totting our Merlin, testing our abilities in Dos. And the miracles kept coming: speed-dial, caller-id, VCR, CDs, and DVDs. When we were 10 years old, “computer geek” was an insult, not an identity. We are damn good at creating technology miracles in someone’s garage. If only we’d been as gifted knowing how to live appropriately with all this technology.
Our generation has done an abysmal job applying the power of the Internet for our society’s highest good. We’re electronically transferring images Hustler would never publish, making indecent proposals to absolute strangers, bashing and bullying and hating faster than the speed of light — all without the consequences of seeing the impact first hand. I could feasibly cause someone — anyone — great emotional harm at this very moment on my Facebook page and would probably GAIN “friends” for doing so.
And yet, here we are, parenting our kids through a technological world. Just last night I asked my husband what the weather was supposed to be this week. He looked at the iPad, laptop, iPhone, NOOK Color and computer surrounding us and said, “Take your pick.” Technology is going to entrench itself into our children’s lives in ways we can’t imagine. Keeping technology from them would be a huge an injustice to their future.