Posted by Kiran Manral
To start with, Facebook does have a policy of not allowing kids who are below 13 to have an account, so those kids who do have an account are definitely violating guidelines and that is something I wouldn’t be able to condone as far as my kid goes, with a clear conscience. There is talk of Facebook looking at putting in more guidelines in place to take care of privacy issues re kids under 13, but I’m still wary. The big bad internet is no place, I believe for a child to be allowed to wander free in. And definitely not social media. I might be a Luddite but I have very clear views on this, and I do know that it is only a matter of time before the child will defy me and insist on having a Facebook account of his own, and I hope and pray he will add me as a friend.
According to statistics, 38 per cent of kids under 13 are on Facebook. What do kids use Facebook for, I wonder? I would imagine, rather much the same reason I use Facebook for, to connect with people, to peek into each other’s lives, to interact online. Does it scare me that in a couple of years my son will be old enough to be on social network sites, and I will have no excuse to have him keep off it? Frankly yes. Because while I’ve experienced the positive side of social networking, I’ve also seen how ugly it can get. I have read stories of how teens have been cyber bullied, so much sometimes that some have committed suicide, of sexual predators lurking on the internet, stalking young children in the garb of being teens themselves. I also realize that a lot of people do post content on FB which might not be appropriate for children. And that the chat button leaves a child open to conversations with people on their friend list which could go unsupervised. More than all this, I don’t want the child to be posting his every thought, his day to day life on Facebook. Not yet.
Then I realize, social media is not unlike life itself. In the real world too, I must lurk and watch him, allow him little, parceled measures of independence, let him test his boundaries with small tasks before I allow him further freedom, send him on dry runs, supervised at first and then unsupervised. Similarly with social media. I need to hand hold him through social media, when I decide that he is mature enough to have his own social media accounts. I need to supervise them—monitor his usage, tell him how he needs to negotiate his way through it, and above all, hope and pray that he stays safe, uses his discretion and as, in the real world, learns to navigate through it. I need to tell him, as in the real world, on social media too, he needs to not befriend strangers, no matter how friendly he seems, not to let his home address out, to not speak with folks he does not know, not to visit sites that might have harmful or dangerous content. The rules remain the same. The medium changes. And what does not change is the need for me to supervise him constantly when he is interacting with the rest of the world, whether online or off.