Thursday, March 17, 2011

About Facebook for the kids

I was taking my customary evening constitional in the society premises when I was hailed by one of the brat's pint sized friends, a girl, all of seven, sharp as a button and with a penchant for coordination that had me hold my breath when I once spotted her with a bandaid in similar shades to what she was wearing.

"Aunty," she said. "Add me to your Facebook."

I gasped. No, I wasn't about to give her a grammar lesson then and there, but the thought that the child could be on facebook had me shocked. "Are you on Facebook?" I asked gently, trying hard to stem the fumes of disapproval emanating from my every pore and skunking up the air in the immediate vicinity.

"Yes," she trilled. "Add me to your Facebook." She repeated. And spelt her name out, along with her surname in the event that I needed help finding her.

I nodded vaguely and walked off, determined to accost her mother and inform her of the forays into social networking her just out of diapers child (in my head) was making. The perils of the internet flashed in my head and built up scenarios so scary that I was hyperventilating by the end of ten minutes and had to call her mother. "Do you know D is on Facebook," I barked without the preamble of a Hello, How are you when she answered the phone.

"Yes, I know, I opened her account for her," replied the mom in calm dulcet tones which made me feel like I was the harridan here.

"Don't you think it is a little too early for her to be on facebook." I ventured hesitantly. "No," she replied, "All her friends are on facebook, and I wanted farmville points."

I ended the conversation abruptly and swore on all that was holy that the brat wouldn't get within inches of Facebook while I had life left in me. And then I got on the computer and opened my facebook account to hope folks had said nice things about a photo of self I had uploaded (Yes, I'm rather vain like that. I need constant validation that I haven't morphed into one of the Ugly Sisters) when I found a friend request from another just turned seven year old who plays Beyblade matches with the brat in the lobby. He earnestly requested me to add the brat onto facebook so they could chat together and play blasted Farmville. I explained to him as patiently as I could that the brat was not getting on Facebook if I had anything to do with it, and that I thought he too was too young to be on Facebook and did his mother know. She did, he replied. So I left it at that.

The other day, the brat came up after an evening's play and asked me, "Mamma, yu are on Facebook?"

I replied in the affirmative, steeling my heart for the request which I thought would invariably follow this question. "Even A is on Facebook, and D and P. Everybody is on Facebook. Such boreding peepuls. They wantu be in a book. I tole them you sit inside a book, I will play Beyblade."

What is your take on kids being on Facebook? Do you approve of it, and would you allow your child below 14 to be on facebook? If yes, how do you control his or her online presence? Am curious. Maybe, I'm missing the bus here.

23 comments:

  1. I so agree with you. Kids should not be on any social networking site. Not until they have the mental maturity to handle it. Gosh! 7 years old and on FB already, that too with the parent's knowledge??? Unbelievable. Makes me wonder if all this is for good!

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  2. Completely with you on this, Kiran. A 7 year old in my building plays Farmville and her mom is very proud about it. This same otherwise-meek n mild girl shows the finger to my 9 year old.And I have requests from 8 and 10 year old cousins n nieces/nephews too. I don't accept them. Glad you tackled this mom, at least you tried!

    No effing way my kids are getting on FB. They get to do homework online or use some approved educational/kiddie game sites very occasionally, under my eagle eye. The computer is bang in the middle of the living room, so we can see exactly what they're doing.

    Go Brat...in this case, at least, Beyblades score!!!

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  3. Oh, I so agree with you.. I have had these requests too, and have told Samhith that he cant get on to fb till he is at least 15.. though i would prefer 18! as to farmville... tried it out, realised it was addictive. so turned it off... he hears about it from friends and wants to play, but knows that theres no way mamma will allow, so, as of now, thankfully accepts that he cant play that!

    and same conditions as starry eyes says.. comp in living room, my eagle eye while he does anything.... and rare chats with family online when I am sitting next to him....

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  4. I don't know much, but I guess one has to talk to children about facebook just like one talks to them about perils in the real world.

    I mean, there is no escaping facebook. But my small experience tells me that the problem is that grown-ups never talk to their children/ teens about facebook, and therefore they cannot benefit from the huge experience that the adults have. The y feel - fb pe sab chalta hain, this isn't the real world.

    Communication is the key.

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  5. A colleague's daughter- around 12, validates her mommy's friends by their FB profiles!! Apparently, kids judge each other by the no. of friends on their list and the Farmville skills.. Yet to have this one encounter from my 9 yr old.. Fingers crossed..

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  6. 7? 7?!

    I found my 13 year old cousin on FB and all her father had to say to that was 'Your birthdate is wrong, hahaha'.

    What about the perils of weirdos who trawl the 'net? What about plain sensibility? sigh.

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  7. No FB for kids. No need. Go make real friends - there are still plenty left if you look hard enough.

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  8. R of course is only 2.5..but ditto Itchy....I dont accept any invitations for nephews, friends children, etc etc who are below 18....should I reduce that to 14?

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  9. Forget Facebook, I think its a bit crazy to let kids sit in front of a monitor/tv screen when they should be out there scraping their knees and getting their hands filthy.

    I am pleased to be in the august company of your child in our position on facebooking being boring.

    My child has asked me not post her pictures on my facebook. "I am shy, i dont want your friends to know what i do " Ah well.... I have complied. No posting anything without her permission.

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  10. amrica guy6:18 AM

    …Some kids are just curious,excited,or plain stubborn to follow the herd & not bcm a social pariah.
    mater can only Cook excuses,b4 facebuk fever catches up.Dnt encourage him yet,let him roll in green grass of innocence.
    however,reckoning some exposure is necessary though,dont keep him unweaned,since even comp has become a subject in school,u can Use youtube to show rare videos for knowlge(Gandhi,solar systm etc),but forbid facebook as useless,depends how you convince him
    till teenage again ruffles this issue.

    Comp is like fire-bcm a master or a slave.


    P.S.-Add her,mrs kiran,she’d poosibly be your future daugtr-in-law,cute as you make it appear to be.

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  11. Anonymous9:38 AM

    Hi Kiran,

    I am not for FB/texting and many other things that most kids are doing. I live in California and my kids are 14 and 12. Aside from the dangers of such things, for me it is just too distracting and once you get into it, you stop to even smell the roses...no time or energy for anything else!!

    Last year many of my college friends wanted me to get on Facebook. I had to explain to many of them why I don't want to do it. Most of their kids were just finishing high school or were very young like 5 and 7. My kids were in the middle group, and what example will I set for them, was my reason. Also, I do not like to live my life in front of 50 plus people who I knew very well 20 years ago. My life and their lives have changed and the friends we keep in touch with regularly now are your neighbors, colleagues, children's friends and your circle of friends where you live. I don't have the time to keep in touch with a 100 people that I went to school and college with. just not practical for me with the limited free time I have. But did not discuss this with my kids.

    Anyways my 14 year old a couple of months ago, told me that his Indian friends (all high schoolers) at a party were talking about Facebook and were surprised that he did not have one and they said that he would for sure have one before he finishes high school. We met again in a couple of weeks at our home, and after the party my son showed me a typed out contact between him and his firnds - That he will not open a Facebook account until he finished high school and his friends say that he will - and whoever wins - the other one has to pay $50.00. The contract itself was written with such humor that it was hilarious.

    This is what I felt after seeing the contract - had a good laugh as it was very funny, felt good that my child does not sterotype himself, and felt happy that I set a good example for them.

    I don't know how long the contract will last - but this is the current situation at our home :)

    We don't discuss this often, but the children know how I feel about it and to a large extent agree with it too. Also, they are many kids like them who do not text, social network etc.,

    Long comment - but wanted to share another perpective on this issue.

    Regards,
    SN

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  12. Anonymous11:01 AM

    The minimum age to join FB is 13 according to FB policy. You could email FB with the full name of the child and have them shut it down (at least try)
    http://www.facebook.com/help/?faq=13455&ref_query=age

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  13. 7 year old on FB? no way. I wouldn't let my 11 yr old and thankfully he is not interested and has never asked me about it.

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  14. I have a 12 yr(OMG OMG) and she isnt on FB. The rules on FB is that one has to be 13. I told her on her 13th bday she gets to have an a/c. Does she have an email a/c. YES..she emails her aunts and friends all the time.

    Some if her friends do have fb a/cs but not her YET.
    At 7 yr old, they are way to young!

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  15. Anonymous7:54 PM

    I don't have a kid, but it does seem like 7 and 9 are too young ages for kids to be on Facebook, or play Farmville for that matter. On the other hand, I was 12 when I had my first email account (and email was just out in India then), so maybe knowing what's there and being a part of it is not so bad. I guess one way I would limit FB/online activities for kids is to have the computer connected to the Web only for so many minutes a day for the kids with Mom sitting on the side, monitoring what they do.

    ~S

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  16. Hello from Australia,

    I totally agree- say no to facebook, that is far too young.

    There are a million and one good websites for kids. Our 5 and 7 year olds have got really into dancemat typing, we have a link to that on our site. The English accents on it are hilarious.

    Our girls have gmail accounts and email each other and friends but that is more than enough.

    There is also a great American blog with a fantastic list of facebook rules. I should dig out the link for anyone who is interested.

    For those interested, we have a kid and family friendly blog- please drop on over!

    http://beourbest.blogspot.com/

    Euan

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  17. Hey all, drowning in work, will reply to all your comments soon!Thanks for writing in...

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  18. My kids are on FB and I am able to regulate them. The PC has a password, so only i can switch it on. They do whatever they have to do in front of me.

    Also, I know their FB passwords, so I regularly check into their accounts and see whats going on. I remove the ''friends'' they may have added, whom i dont approve of etc.

    I feel kids do what they want to, especially if all their friends are doing it.

    I would rather they do their thing in front of me , in my knowledge, cos I know lots of kids whose parents wont allow them, so they have fake accounts which they operate from their friends' homes, or worse, from cyber cafes.

    Sujata

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  19. No - kids 15 or younger should not be on facebook.

    Although I personally like it - it is a powerful product if you know how to use it well. Kids do not have the understanding or judgement of what and howmuch to share. It is difficult for them to understand and know the perils of the internet. Also, it can prove to be a BIG distraction.

    Kids that age, need to be protected and guided, and allowed and not allowed to do certain things.

    I have told my children 8 and 6, that they can get their facebook account after they pass 12th standard.

    Paranoid? Well. I dont mind being so on this issue. :-) I am a scaredy cat.

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  20. Suhasini: Too much too soon, according to me.

    Starryeyed: I swear. Im thankful that the Beyblades keep him off the net.

    Anu: That's sensible.

    Luv: As young as 7 they dont understand the medium yet. I think, yes, explain to them why its too early for them and also, monitor their net usage.

    Itchy: :)

    Vidya: That's a bit too much na?

    Dewdropdreams: I wonder too!

    Chox: Exactly my opinion.

    R's Mom: At 14, I think they're old enough to be 'monitored' by friendly adults in the family on FB. Unless, as I've learnt with the young uns in my family, I get put on limited profile.

    Sur: I agree. The day the brat tells me he doesnt want to be written about, I will stop.

    Amricaguy: LOL. No, I'd wait till theyre past 14.

    SN: That was lovely, the contract. On the flip though, I have reconnected with so many wonderful people who I'd dropped out of contact with through FB and it has definitely enriched my life.

    Anonymous: I wouldnt step in. The parents know about their fb accounts and it then becomes none of my business. You know.

    Mahes: :)

    sraikh: email is fine. fb is what I worry about. Even old matrons like us get hit on by the creeps all the time. I would hate to expose the kids to that.

    S: That would be ideal, but kids are kids and one is not around 24 x 7 to supervise them and unless we have an ironclad password it would be difficult to know if theyre on the computer in our absence.

    Jill: Thanks for dropping by, and will definitely check out the fb rules on your blog.

    Sujata: That's a valid point, better controlled and under your supervision. The point is not all parents will supervise it like you do, and that could be dangerous.

    Poet Mamma: yup. Big distraction. Dangerous. And the world out there is too scary. I'm with you on the paranoid couch.

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  21. well mine are nowhere close to being on FB so i dont have an opinion on this. that said, they have only rarely caught some kiddy youtube videos or done some interactive alphabet type games on the PC. i have a strict screen time policy so even TV is rare.

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  22. themadmomma: Makes complete sense, mine is a TV watcher I confess, I needed him to watch to give me some down time...

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