I recently became a parent, that not to say we gave birth, no, but after a long drawn out process, we, my fiancée and I, managed to get her son a visa to come live with us in the UK, he was 11 and has now just turned 13.
It’s a difficult age, I remember the turmoil of teenage life (just) and dread what adolescent treats we have in store, but my most immediate problem is, now he is ‘of age’, he has an argument against my stance that he being underage (according to the terms and conditions of Facebok) can’t have a face book page until he turns 13, didn’t think that one through fully.
Facebook is not evil, nor is the internet, but doing what I do consider myself savvier than the average parent, and, judging from conversations with my boy, this would seem to be a well founded assumption.
The internet is not a playground, there a risks associated with its use, just the as there are risks in most things, and whilst we cannot (and should not) fence our young of from these risk completely we do have a duty to teach them and mentor them in the best practices. The net it is not a safe environment on which to publish your details, and Facebook most certainly is not place for a new netizen to cut their wings.
We, as parents, can only do so much to protect and educate our kids, we talk to them about cyber bullying but have no control over whether we are listened or heard, than same goes for the discussions on publishing personal data .
There are rules in our house when it comes to the internet, we do not allow access to the net in the bed room, access is monitored and software is installed to block inappropriate content where possible.
He will get Facebook, the digital world is the world he will grow up in and he must be savvy to all its opportunities, but it will be under certain conditions,
- He will not publish his birthday, holidays, address, telephone number, school info or age
- He will not ‘friend’ anyone he does not know
- He will friend his mother and me.
- He will continue to be limited on how much time he spend online
- I will set up his account and privacy settings and he will not change them
- He will be wary of the images he publishes and only publish them to friends
It seems draconian but until the sites themselves help us the parents, protect our children, we the parent need to proactively monitor our little ones and make sure they understand the risks, a responsibility to many parents seem less keen to address.
It is my hope that he will discover all the great stuff out there, and become interested in adding to it, creating new experiences and getting beyond just consuming, IM and games…..which are fun as well
We shall see.