I’m a Mean Facebook Mom
(story by Mir, from Woulda Coulda Shoulda)
And I use Facebook, as does my husband and, I assume, my kids' dad. I have nothing against Facebook.
Still… my daughter is nearing her 14th birthday, and she still doesn't have Facebook. Because I haven't okayed it yet. Is this logical? Probably not.
It started logically enough: She wanted Facebook, and many of her friends—middle-schoolers, all—had it. But the Facebook terms of service say you have to be 13, and although people are clearly bending the rules to create underage accounts, we weren't okay with that. "You're not starting your online presence with a lie," we told her, as she moped around, muttering about how everyone else's parents were cooler than we are. (Aside: I'm sure they are.) Sorry, kid. You have to be 13, and that's that.
Her 13th birthday arrived, and now we couldn't use the Facebook TOS excuse. However, there had been some email shenanigans (she's has email for several years) that had made us uncomfortable, and so we were able, once more, to say "not yet." She wasn't happy, but she knew why were putting it off. She knew it was part of the consequences of some of her previous actions. And again, there was no Facebook for her.
Of course, when she first started begging for an account, it wasn't true that "everyone" had one. It's not even true that everyone has one now, but now all of her friends are 13 or older, so many of them do. Most of her friends are on Facebook. Very few of them have mean parents who say no, like us.
Here I'm going to put on my curmudgeon hat and tell you a bit about when I was her age. (Feel free to picture me in a rocker on the porch, waving my cane at you.) At her age, when I wanted to connect with my friends, we passed notes during school, and talked on the phone from home. Or we just… didn't. We would be apart for hours (sometimes days) at a time, and NO ONE DIED. Compare this to her life: She and her friends text each other constantly from their cell phones (and before you ask, I resisted that one, too, but finally compromised; she pays for her own texting), instant-message each other when they're on the computer, and speak on the phone very rarely. (Their thumbs are apparently faster than their mouths.) Back to when I was her age—the opportunities for communication to go sideways were few, but of course it happened. Sometimes notes were intercepted or shared with someone who should not have been allowed to see them. Once three-way calling came along, occasionally someone would call you with a third party on the line and get you to say things you most certainly would not have, had you known they were there. Stuff like that.
With my daughter and her friends, people text while frenemies hang over their shoulders, snooping. Emails get forwarded or bcc:ed places you wish they wouldn't. Social angst and drama is alive and well amongst the female teenagers, is my point. I can't save my daughter from any of it, I know. And yet… Facebook. Facebook worries me. It worries me more than the avenues for social connections which are already available to her.
Maybe it's because of the well-publicized incidents involving bullying on Facebook. Maybe it's because I see the uncouth and sometimes downright shocking behavior of supposed adults on Facebook every day, and cringe to think what a pack of young adults lacking fully-formed frontal lobes may consider social-media-appropriate behavior. Maybe I just feel like it's the last bastion of control I still sort of have over her immersion into the social media waters.
Maybe I fear the increased drama that likely can and will come from this platform that allows kids to see just about every comment everyone has ever made about them. No more "nice outfit," whispered behind your back with a mean giggle—which you may or may not hear—when the same people can easily write it on your wall, or their own walls, and suddenly people who didn't matter much in real life seem VERY important on your almighty page.
Or maybe I'm just overprotective and making excuses. That's possible, too.
Do you use Facebook? If you have kids, do you allow them to use it? Am I being mean by saying no?
(Get more Mir, here)