Before I dive into this topic, let me give a disclaimer: my opinion on this matter is still forming so please do not assume much about my “agenda” on this matter. This post will hopefully be a discussion starter for parents as they navigate the brave new world of social media.
During my last few years of youth ministry I was taken back a bit by some of the friend requests I would get from time to time. Some of these requests would be from students that were in the children’s ministry either at our church or from other churches I have worked with over my ministry career. Other than wondering whether or not these youngsters could figure out how to work some of the complexities of Facebook, I didn’t really consider many of the implications of allowing access to minors with sites like Facebook and Twitter. But, if I was honest with myself I wondered if children younger than teenagers needed to be on Facebook. But I did not know why it bugged me.
I am a big fan of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding (CPYU) out of Fuller Seminary because of their work helping today’s parents understand youth culture. They back their information with good research and seem to have a good grasp on what is going on in today’s teen culture.
The president of CPYU, Walt Muller had a really interesting article on the subject of Facebook and children under 13. He has a pretty rigid stance on the issue: it is not a good idea. He backs this opinion with several reasons (which I will list below, but I encourage you to read the article to get more info).
Reasons children under 13 should not get a Facebook account:
- They are not developmentally appropriate to use Facebook
- Danger of addiction
- Risk too much exposure to too many things too early
- Increased exposure to advertising
- Relational isolation due to decreased “face to face” interactions
- Inhibited socialization
I believe these are some good reasons to have a conversation with your spouse\family about what age\maturity level your children should be allowed to use Facebook or other social networking sites. On top of the reasons Muller gives for not allowing young children to use Facebook, I would also encourage you to ask some of these questions as you consider allowing access:
- Why does my child want to have a Facebook account?
- What are the risk\rewards of allowing this access?
- What boundaries need to be put in place before we agree to this privilege?
Along with these questions, I would suggest looking at the CPYU primer for social networking that gives a great overview of social networking and some strategies you can adopt as a family when you get to the point your children want to hop into the social networking mix.
What do you think? Does it matter what age\maturity level children should reach before access is given to Facebook? How did you come to this conclusion?