If you have a tween or an older elementary school student, you may be hearing that familiar whine “but, why can’t I go on Facebook (or MySpace)? EVERYONE is on it!”
Well, not everyone. In fact, to be on Facebook, you have to be 13. In Facebook’s own words,
“If you are under age 13, please do not attempt to register for Facebook or provide any personal information about yourself to us. If we learn that we have collected personal information from a child under age 13, we will delete that information as quickly as possible. If you believe that we might have any information from a child under age 13, please contact us through this help page.”
Can’t get much more clear than that.
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MySpace has a similar requirement and statement. In their words,
“Hey, we understand. All of your friends are on MySpace and you’re super-mature for your age. Nonetheless, we have various rules in place to keep you safe and secure on MySpace.”
Here are highlights of the MySpace rules:
- “you must be at least 13 years old to have a MySpace profile”
- “if you’re under 16 years old, you’re not allowed to list your age as over 16 and make your profile public (your profile must be set to private)”
They further go on to state that no changes can be made to stated ages. So, an 18 year old has to remain 18 and a teen under 18 can’t change their age to appear as if they are older than 18. They are so serious about these rules that MySpace states clearly that profiles will be deleted if rules are broken.
Again, crystal clear!
As mature as our kids may appear as pre-teens, they are not fully developed yet and do not understand the social nuances of the online world. They have enough issues with the offline world socially – think about all the hiccups they face with friends each month! Plus, would you let your preteen hang with teens in real life? So, we shouldn’t do it online.
The other issue is more straight forward: it’s the rule…the law! To allow a preteen younger than 13 onto one of these sites we would, as parents, have to lie, out right lie, about that child’s age. That gives that child the clear and unambiguous message that lying in some instances is ok but not in others. And, it pokes holes in our kids’ abilities to take us seriously because we just bent a very, very important rule.
We would never allow our kids to get a fake ID to get alcohol or to get a fake license to drive a car before they are the allowed age in their state, or to drive without a license. Going on Facebook or MySpace before age 13 is the equivalent of buying alcohol with a fake ID or driving with a falsified license or no license at all.
Sometimes as parents we have to draw a line in the sand and force our kids to wait until they are the right age for some aspects of life. Social networking isn’t going any where and when the time is right they will be able to go on to those sites and use them wisely and appropriately. Until then, there are many other sites for kids under age 13 they can enjoy.