Reasons young children should not use Facebook

Your 5th grader arrives home from school and tells you that John (and you get a nervous feeling in your belly because John is the boy who picks on her and is known as the class ‘Bully’) took a picture of her with his phone and said he is going to take her clothes off in the picture then post it on Facebook.

 You are horrified… this creep is tormenting your daughter (and you’re thinking… is he really capable of doing that?) you keep a poker face so the dialogue with your daughter can continue. Your daughter asks you if he is really able to do that. In the moment – you aren’t really even sure – but the real issues at hand is the threat and the potential fallout from this type of cyber bullying behavior. With a little googling  you discover that with today’s technology the answer is YES, this little #$%@** can change the picture anyway he wants to and do with it what he likes and if that means posting on Facebook then he can.

Our question is – What is this 11 year old doing on Facebook? This is one of the reasons why there is a recommended age for users of Facebook.  Children that young are not as capable of seeing and understanding consequences to their actions. These young children are unable to utilize social networking safely and are often unsupervised in the process – opening up potentially awful results for kids like the ones described above – victim and perpetrator.

Your child, (who does not have a Facebook account), says she doesn’t want you to take it to the School Administration, for fear of increased retaliation from John. (What will happen to this world if we don’t stand up to protect ourselves and our loved ones? Unfortunately this child’s reaction is an all too accurate description of why children don’t report bullying in the first place – fear of increased retaliation).

So how does a parent handle this? How can we protect and teach our children safe practices in this digital age? And the main question we want to tackle today – Why is a 5th grader, age 11, on Facebook in the first place?  How are we as parents feeding into a system that is not safe or in the best interest of our children?

Many parents we have spoken with have said, “I let my 9 year old on Facebook because I don’t want my child being “left out” socially. All of their friends are on it.” Is having your child keep up socially worth the safety issues that can ensue from being on social networking sites when they are not mature enough to understand the ramifications?

If all of these parents would speak to each other instead of conforming to adult peer pressure, many would discover that other parents are like minded and do NOT want their kids on Facebook just yet either. Maybe the parents could all agree – let’s wait till, say, 8th grade – when they are better able to make safe decisions, use it for what it is intended, and we as parents will have had more time to set proper guide lines with them.

When we allow underage kids onto sites such as Facebook – we are setting them loose on line to exposure to real life threats, child predators, inappropriate content and increased vulnerability to being involved in cyber bullying. We are basically setting our children up for unsafe situations.

The other point is by allowing our children to lie to open up a Facebook account – what message are we sending them? It’s okay to lie? Well about some things it’s okay to lie? According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project – 38% of 12 year olds in the US were using social networks in 2009. What message are we sending our children if we are directly supporting them lying in this situation? Where will it lead? Perhaps it seems benign, right now – but the next step…just around the corner could be them lying about underage drinking.

So back to our story, where does John, the “bully” from our story fall into this issue? He has a Facebook account, is underage, and is making verbal threats to others.  Do you think his parents know about his account? Should they be notified of his behavior? Should this be parent to parent or should the school get involved? We want to hear your thoughts as the reader – what would you do? Is your underage child using Facebook? What guidelines, if any have you set?

If you have an underage child on Facebook – and this pertains to all ages of our kids on Facebook – We at KidSafe Foundation, strongly recommend that as part of the privilege and responsibility for using the site is that you be “friends” with your child.  This gives you an open door into what he/she posts, language used by them and others, unfamiliar friends, how much personal info they are sharing and choices they make. Parents need to set guidelines and boundaries with their children and let them know that your privilege for having a Facebook account comes only with complete and open access by you the parent. That to have this privilege you will be having ongoing discussion about “friends” on Facebook, posts and anything else you the parent feels necessary to discuss.  This is one way to help keep your child safe on line.

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"I'm so grateful that KidSafe has partnered with my daughter's school.  I learned so much in the parent training--how to recognize potential sexual predator behavior; how to quiz my child about what they would do in different scenarios; and how to explain safe and unsafe touch.  In addition, knowing that my daughter is receiving weekly trainings on these topics gives me great peace of mind.  I have confidence that I can reinforce what she is learning in school in order to prevent her from ever being a victim of such a heinous crime.  Thank you KidSafe for your dedication to protecting our communities' most vulnerable citizens."

Christina Kranick

“It was a normal Saturday and I was at the rink with my 7 and 8 year old. My son asked me if he could use the Men’s Restroom by himself.  Without hesitation, my daughter said,  Absolutely not! I was in KidSafe today and you cannot go to the restroom alone.  It is very important that Mommy is with you.. with us.   I was so proud of my little girl!  We are so blessed to have Debbie Miller at our school teaching our children the importance of safety. Many thanks to you all!  Your program and instruction is absolutely amazing.  Keep up the great work!"  

Tara Henley Admissions Assistant, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and School, Ft. Lauderdale

I am a parent of two Pine Crest children and I attended your program on Monday night. I just wanted to thank you so very much for the very informative seminar. As hard as it was to hear all of those things, it was very needed. We were thrilled that you were able to come and share that very important information with us and our children. So again...thank you.

Elisa Aronberg

Today’s training was awesome! It was very informative. Sally was a very good resource, she motivated us a lot! We want to pass on this information to parents, teachers and students! Thank you for offering workshops like this. These are tools we use to continue serving our children and families.

Participant from Children’s Services Council of Broward Seminar

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