The reasons for not allowing your child to have a Facebook account (or any adult social network for that matter) are actually pretty simple to understand. Facebook is a social network that was created by, and meant for adults. Facebook does not want children to join their network.
The content, the culture, and the privacy risks that come with a membership are better received and handled by someone who’s not only older, but mature enough to weigh the differences between what’s right and wrong, and then make decisions based on that understanding. In fact, it’s similar to parenting in the sense that there’s a good chance that a teen isn’t as mentally prepared to raise a child as an adult would be. It may be an extreme comparison, but it still shines a light on the fact that there’s a side of the Internet that demands a certain level of maturity and understanding from the user, and unfortunately the exact opposite is being embodied in the way Facebook memberships are being approached by children.
Back in 2009, Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 46% of 12-year-olds in the U.S. use social networks—a percentage that’s sure to have gone up since then.
Trend Micro found that 25% of 8 to 12-year-olds have a Facebook profile, and in this group, 17% of parents are completely unaware of this.
There’s not much to say about these statistics—they speak for themselves. Social media is a wonderful tool that our children, no matter what their age, should benefit from. The social networks should just be…well, age-appropriate, positive, and healthy for our kids.
If you allow your kids on Facebook, or if you’re still on the fence about the whole thing, consider something as heinous as Smash or Pass. It’s a “game” that’s being played on Facebook as you’re reading this. See for yourself – just type “Smash or Pass” into the search bar in Facebook and you’ll most likely land on this page, along with a bunch of other Smash or Pass pages (including an 18+ version).
Basically Smash or Pass is a page, or series of pages, on Facebook where people post photos of themselves (or of anyone for that matter) and then other people leave comments saying “smash” or “pass”—both terms refer to having sex with the person in the photo. Some versions of the game allow users to post a third option, “already had”, which means they’ve already has some form of sexual relations with that person.
Here are a couple of examples of kids who are obviously too young to be on Facebook, let alone using Smash or Pass. (Click to enlarge)
They tell this little girl that she looks like a pig from Charlotte’s Web. This is a child, for goodness sake!
Facebook users aren’t as anonymous as users on a site like Topix, but what’s to stop someone from creating a fake Facebook profile and posting photos of kids, like the ones above, into pages like Smash or Pass where they can be bullied with crude comments? How could this type of attention ever be healthy for our kids? What happens when that child or the parent of that child finds out?
But let’s assume that these kids really are on Facebook, and let’s assume that they really did post these photos of themselves—their actions are a perfect representation of what I was referring to in the beginning of this article: kids aren’t mentally capable of understanding what’s right and wrong on the Internet and what’s good for them, or what isn’t. They’re going to make choices—consciously or not—that could have a detrimental effect on their identity, self-image, and reputation. In fact, the Trend Micro report found that 40% of 8-12 year olds believe that all the information they read on Facebook is true!
Parents this is an invitation to become involved, to be aware, and to know what’s going on. If you wouldn’t knowingly allow your child to be exposed to certain circumstances in their physical world, then it shouldn’t happen online. Give it some serious thought before deciding if an adult-intended social network is what’s best for your kids. Your supervision and involvement are key to keeping them safe online and to ensuring that they have a healthy and positive experience.
That’s simply why I founded Yoursphere.com for all our kids. They deserve so much more than “Smash or Pass”.
Big thanks to Tshaka Armstrong for bring this topic to my attention. He wrote a nice article on how games like Smash or Pass can have a negative effect on the self-esteem of a child. He also touched on the Internet safety side of things and what parents can do to educate their children about these pages/games if they allow their kids on Facebook. Check out his article here.