P.C.Pop with Pablo

How to Say NO to Facebook – Advice for Families and Educators

In Education, Facebook, Family, Malavenda, Pablo Malavenda, parenting, social media, Uncategorized on October 7, 2012 at 7:42 pm


Facebook – Advice for Families and Educators

Each day in the life of a parent of a teenager or tween invites challenges. Parenting today’s youth contains so many contradictions and conflicts. We want our kids to respect us — and like us. Kids need and are begging for boundaries — but we don’t know how to say “No.” We want to protect our kids from worshiping material things but we want them to have better stuff than their friends. We hope our kids will follow the rules but we teach them how to break them every day. Some decisions are easy – say No to drugs, don’t steal, don’t cheat. Others are not so simple, like when it is OK to date, go to an R rated movie, or get on Facebook.

This post can’t possible cover all of those issues adequately – so, let’s focus on one – how to deal with that inevitable question about Facebook. My first reaction to parents and educators is that it is simple – follow the rules and agreement. Most people “agree” and “accept” agreements with online sites and software without ever reading a word. Scroll, scroll, scroll, scroll…click the “I accept” box and submit. So it is no surprise that very few know Facebook has an age minimum. Here is an excerpt from the Facebook Agreement you accepted (but most likely did not read) under the Safety Section, specifically “Registration and Account Security.”


Facebook – Statement of Rights and Responsibilities

Facebook users provide their real names and information, and we need your help to keep it that way. Here are some commitments you make to us relating to registering and maintaining the security of your account:

    • You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.
    • You will not use Facebook if you are under 13.

Facebook and many other online sites like Twitter, Instagram, and all Google products including Gmail and YouTube has age restrictions to show good faith to the US Federal government. These social networking sites have adopted these policies based on their interpretation of the US Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 also known as COPPA.


Here are some COPPA facts:

  • COPPA is a Federal Law
  • COPPA was Enacted on October 21, 1998
  • COPPA became Effective on April 21, 2000
  • COPPA applies to the “online collection of personal information by persons or entities under U.S. jurisdiction from children under 13 years of age.”
  • It details what a website operator must include in a privacy policy, when and how to seek verifiable consent from a parent or guardian, and what responsibilities an operator has to protect children’s privacy and safety online including restrictions on the marketing to those under 13.
  • While children under 13 can legally give out personal information with their parents’ permission, many websites altogether disallow underage children from using their services due to the amount of paperwork involved.

This doesn’t stop kids under 13 from getting Facebook profiles on their own or asking their parents to give their blessing for a Facebook profile. Facebook doesn’t do too much to prevent kids from creating a profile. Facebook screens out kids by requiring new members to submit their birth month, birth day, and birth year. If the birth year reveals that the person registering is over 13 years old – they make it past the one and only hurdle imposed by Facebook. Most kids savvy enough to know about Facebook are savvy enough to fudge their birth year to get approved for a profile. The only other ways a minor may lose their Facebook account is if another user reports them as being under age or they change their birth date information too often. Otherwise, once a minor gets in they are set.

After surveying the parents of the kids who were already using Facebook, many of these parents admitted to helping their children falsify their information to get a Facebook account — creating what is known as a “Virtual Fake ID.” Parents who actually help their kids commit fraud when registering with Facebook concern me for a couple of reasons. These parents either don’t completely understand the dangers of kids using Facebook, or they know the risk and don’t really care. Most of these parents find it very difficult to deny their kids anything. So when the kids ask for access to Facebook stating that all of their friends are on Facebook, the parents concede. These parents don’t want their kids to have less than other kids, and they really want their kids to like them and think they’re the cool parents. So these parents teach their kids to cheat, lie and commit fraud to get that much desired Facebook account. With these families, saying NO to Facebook is not their real issue. The good news is most parents know that there are risks and know they should say NO but just need some advice on “how to say NO” and information that supports the claim of risk and danger.



As parents, that day arrived for us when our kids were in fifth and fourth grades. My son came home and told us that many of his friends had Facebook profiles and he was wondering if he should get one too. We sat down with both of our kids and told them that Facebook did not allow kids under 13 years old to register – and kids between the ages of 13 and 17 needed their parents’ permission and the parents’ commitment to monitor their activity. We continued the discussion with our two kids about our concerns and about the risks and dangers of the internet. The topics or discussion points we used in our conversation with our two kids are as following:


  • Purpose of Facebook — The original purpose of Facebook which was to assist college students in connecting online – and now any adult. Due to the amount of college students and young adults using Facebook — inappropriate content and language is freely shared, used, and available. Just like we wouldn’t allow them to wander around a university campus at their age, they shouldn’t be allowed to wander around Facebook at their age. Quite simply, Facebook was not designed for kids.
  • Why an Age Restriction – First it is part of a Federal Law and written into the Facebook agreement. We as a family follow rules and obey laws. A lot of research and discussion was involved in passing the law and creating the rule; therefore we will comply.
  • You Don’t Need It – When kids get older and go to college, Facebook is a useful tool to keep in touch with your high school friends and family.  Once you graduate college and/or get a job in the real world, your network of friends, family and colleagues will most likely extend across the country and perhaps will be global. Facebook will then be a useful tool to keep in touch, share information, and develop relationships that may assist you in life and your career development. But until you can show your parents that you need Facebook to communicate or stay connected to your friends – you should not be on Facebook. Go to school and talk to your friends instead.
  • Too Public, Too Many Strangers. Due to the amount of users (more than 1 billion to date), there is a great potential for predators to hurt them, harass them or just pick on them and make them feel bad. Bullying is a real issue, and cyber-bullying is even easier and potentially more damaging. Even though kids are using the internet and Facebook in the safety of their own home – it is a very public place. Kids are just not developmentally ready to be on their own in such a public place with potentially a billion strangers watching them.
  • Waste of Time – Addictive. How it can become addictive and a waste of valuable time – taking away from the true priorities of doing well in school, having friends, and participating in other activities like sports, band and student council. Online addiction is a real issue especially with kids who are easily distracted, seeking attention or validation, or avoiding work. This by the way describes most children, tweens and young teens.
  • But Others Kids are Doing It. Why other kids are doing it and we can’t. In our family, we have already established with our kids through various conversations that other families may make different decisions than us. We are not going to judge other families but typically what other parents do will not have an impact on us. Only we know what is right and good for our family.

That being said, it is great when the parents of your kids’ friends have similar rules about Facebook. It is the Tooth Fairy Syndrome – when you discovered that one kid in your kids’ circle of friends has received $10 for just one tooth from the Tooth Fairy. Those parents ruined it for the rest of us parents whose kids only got 50¢ to a dollar per tooth from the Tooth Fairy. For this reason it is worth having a discussion with other parents, your kids’ teachers, and other family members to see if you can establish some consistency in the messages your kids are getting about social media and social networking. Most parents when they are educated about the dangers and risks of kids using Facebook will also restrict their kids’ usage. Also, most of our parent-friends were clueless that the age restriction was tied to Federal Law and explicitly stated in the Facebook user agreement. If you can’t find common ground though, don’t back down and don’t compromise. After all it is the safety of your kids that is at stake.


So, now that we have this Facebook dilemma figured out – whose going to help me figure out how to talk to my kids about “you know what,” when they could start dating, and when they can go see an “R” rated movie without me tagging along. Somebody Help Me. Please.


Nobody said it was easy — No one ever said it would be so hard.


Read more about Social Media on PC Pop with Pablo:


References & Resources for Parents, Teachers, and Families:


NetSmartz Workshop is an interactive, educational program of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® (NCMEC) that provides age-appropriate resources to help teach children how to be safer on- and offline. The program is designed for children ages 5-17, parents and guardians, educators, and law enforcement. With resources such as videos, games, activity cards, and presentations, NetSmartz entertains while it educates.


OnGuardOnline.gov is the federal government’s website to help you be safe, secure and responsible online. The Federal Trade Commission manages OnGuardOnline.gov, in partnership with several other federal agencies. OnGuardOnline.gov is a partner in the Stop Think Connect campaign, led by the Department of Homeland Security, and part of the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, led by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.


Common Sense Media is dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology. We exist because our nation’s children spend more time with media and digital activities than they do with their families or in school, which profoundly impacts their social, emotional, and physical development. As a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization, we provide trustworthy information and tools, as well as an independent forum, so that families can have a choice and a voice about the media they consume.


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