Media Monday – Facebook For Kids?
I often wonder what I will say when the time comes and my son asks for his own facebook account. Will I stamp my feet and say no way or will I be persuaded by the pleas of “but mum, everyone else has one!” and the feeling that I may be the only crazy conservative mother who deprives her child of the right to social media? All I know is at this stage, the idea of my kids, or any kid, using facebook doesn’t sit right with me.
Just last year I was sitting in a school council meeting and the issue of cyber-bullying was raised. It involved a group of year 4 girls who were around 9 years old. 9 years old!
One parent demanded to know how they got a facebook account in the firstplace but others didn’t seem surprised, admitting that they had set up facebook accounts for their children despite the fact it is not meant for children under 13. The justification was that they monitored their child’s facebook interactions closely. It became apparent that what I thought was a rather black and white issue actually revealed shades of grey.
Facebook are taking steps towards making facebook accessible for kids. Creator of facebook, Mark Zuckerburg, has always said that children should be allowed to use facebook and the only thing stopping this was facebook itself and he is keen to see this change.
Problem 1. Targeted advertising and marketing
Facebook wasn’t created purely so friends could connect. It was created as a marketing machine, able to gather and store personal information in order to target advertising and get people connecting and interacting with products and brands. I know many of us enjoy facebook because of our ability to connect with friends and the recent infiltration of targeted ads drives us crazy! This was always the plan. Would we have been so keen to join facebook initially if we knew we were going to be bombarded with advertising? Perhaps, perhaps not. But, now we are all using social media and many of us are addicted, we put up with the advertising because the only option is to reject social media altogether and for many of us, that’s just not an option.
Children are too young to process the clever techniques of targeted advertising. Many progressive European countries ban advertising targeting children because it raises ethical questions. There are many reasons why we need to protect our children from advertising. A ban on all advertising aimed at children sounds radical but I say this is where we need to get to.
And it’s not only exposure to the marketing that will be harmful. Younger children have not yet developed the maturity and judgment to handle the complexities of cyber “friendships” or grasp the potential consequences of sharing personal information online.
- Commercial Free Childhood
Problem 2. What about childhood?
The article by Richard Louv, facebook wants your children, points out that the more time kids spend indoors using technology and engaging in social media the less time they spend outside being, well, kids.
Do we really want to encourage our children to enter the adult world of social media too soon? As we know, social media is addictive and too much screen time isn’t good for any of us!
Problem 3. Cyberbullying is a serious problem
Children are too young to understand the dangers of the online world and lack the judgement to choose their words wisely. It’s easy to feel that the online world is anonymous and you can lash out and say terrible things to others without consequence. Children aren’t ready for that – some adults can’t handle it and forget that it’s actually a real person reading that nasty comment at the end of that blog or facebook post.
Bullying is at crisis point in many Australian schools and around the world. Something is not right. The only escape these kids have from the bullying they endure on a daily basis is when they get home. Social media for kids just means that the bullying can continue in the place where they should feel the safest: home. Cyberbullying is real and common.
In fact, some old highschool friends and I were recently thanking high heaven that facebook didn’t when we were teenagers. We knew that we would have gotten ourselves in to big trouble even though our intentions would have been ‘for the joke’ it could have had lasting consequences. Thankfully, Friday night prank calls from the safety of a landline (before mobile phones) meant we usually got away with our mostly harmless silliness. Wow, times have changed.
So, what do you think about facebook for kids?
Would you (have you) let your kids have a facebook account?
advertising, Children, cyberbullying, facebook, kids, marketing, parenting, protecting childhood, social media