When you were 13, what were you doing? I mean, I know what I was doing… I was trying to swindle my mother into buying me (an absolutely necessary) pre-paid wireless cell phone. I mean, everyone had one, so I HAD to have one. Well, fast forward 12 years and now, that Nokia cell phone I so desired is long gone and every 13 year old these days has at least an iPhone 4S and a laptop computer. It is because of the ease of accessibility, kids are using the Internet, social media sites, and networking like never before. As I always say, with every great technological exposure, comes great responsibility. So, what are these kids doing online? Are there safe places for them to learn how to integrate into the social networking society? Can they be protected?
So, what are these kids doing online?
For starters, Facebook restricts minors below the age of 13 from using their site. To get around this “barrier” to social-ness, apparently kids around the globe are creating e-mail addresses (with or without the help or consent of parents) and Facebook profiles. Keep in mind, Facebook allows anyone with an e-mail address to register on their site. Minor Monitor, (a parent “big brother” application), claims that 38% of kids on Facebook are under the age of 13! Furthermore, 40 out of every 1,000 children on Facebook are 6 years old or younger. Well that’s awkward… So, statistically speaking, our children are in daycare using Facebook during play time. The more important question here is, how are these children getting profiles? Shouldn’t there be some type of REAL age verification ability on Facebook? What is Facebook doing about this problem? Is Facebook responsible for babysitting these kids online?
What measures can we take to protect kids online?
Facebook is already starting to take charge of the issue of underage user-ship (as they should be). They’re apparently throwing out “20,000 underage users per day” according to a CNN article. Facebook is also testing out several features and functionalities that would allow parents control over child accounts. Features include (but not limited to): linking a child’s account to the parent so it can be monitored and controlled, allowing parents to decide who connects with their child, and access to any applications or games. Essentially, your parents would be big brother, not Facebook, letting Facebook off the theoretical babysitting hook for the actions of said unruly youngsters. This sounds like the beginning of A LOT better sounding idea than children creating false identities on Facebook at the age of 6; kids these days.
Are there safe places for children to network with other children online?
Apparently, there are! A few sites like, ScuttlePad.com, yoursphere.com, GiantHello.com, and Everloop.com are really making an effort to not only teach kids how to network online, but how to make smart choices and sound decision making through games, puzzles, and etc. Everloop’s site explains, “Everloop, the safe social network for kids, revolutionizes the way kids under 13 connect online. Unlike other social networking sites for kids, Everloop provides a unique, age-appropriate social media experience for children with customized micro-networks or “loops” that safely connect kid-relevant content, services, applications and experiences. With kids games online, safe email and kids chat, Everloop is the kids social network where tweens can have fun on the internet and safely be kids as long as possible.” Well, that’s seemingly awesome. Now, we just need something like that to keep me away from Facebook and Twitter while attempting to write… But seriously, this online experience sounds pretty cool by allowing your child to navigate within a safe online “bubble” without you having to worry what creeps could be talking to them. On the opposite side of the coin, will teaching your child “Internet responsibility” by “looping” to safe sites be more effective than actually taking your child through the jungle that is the Internet, yourself?
Key Take Away:
If you’re a parent of a child who can access a mobile phone and connect/type sentences, chances are, your child has a Facebook and/or is active online. Yeah, you should probably check on that.