Parenting advice sought: 9 year old and Facebook.

This may sink without a trace but if it doesn’t then I’ll say up front: I asked for input, come what may. :slight_smile: (And why it’s in IMHO rather than MPSIMS).

Last night as my wife and I were watching a movie in the lounge, our 9-year old son Alex came in with something clearly on his mind. We stopped the movie, and he squirmed a bit in a chair before announcing that we were going to be mad at him.

Keeping a neutral tone we asked him to explain, and he told us that he’d just created himself a Facebook account so that he could play some games with his (slightly older) neighbourhood friends, and that he knew that he shouldn’t have done this and that he’d had to put in a birth-year that wasn’t his own in order to create an account.

Alex is pretty computer savvy for his age – I was amused a while back to hear that his after-school computer club teacher had told the other students to go home and practice what they’d been learning (if they had computers at home), but told Alex to go home, get off the computer, and run around outside for a bit. :slight_smile:

He and I together have previously created accounts for him to play kid-friendly online games (such as Free Realms), but he knew he wasn’t supposed to sign up for stuff without checking first.

Anyway, I went through to the computers with him (we have 2 in a family-use room), and had a look at the profile. He’d put in his name but nothing else, and uploaded an avatar of Mario (a favourite character). He said that he remembered and was following the “child safety online” information that he’d got at computer club.

I set his Facebook profile to the most restrictive privacy settings, told him that he was not to add any other identifying information, altered his age to 13 (from 16), and required that he add me as a friend. [13 is the minimum age Facebook will allow creation of a profile – as far as I can see there isn’t an option for parents to OK an sub-13 age].

I did all this calmly, while impressing upon him that I wasn’t very happy with him (and I think he got the point – I was talking very quietly and calmly but he was a bit pale by end).

Having done this Mrs. Apollyon requested a quiet chat. :wink:

She appeared very concerned, and explained that she felt my (too calm) response was sending the message that it was OK to break rules, and even break laws… well, Facebook’s TOS at least.

My feeling was that he is going to do things he shouldn’t as he grows up, and I’d much rather that he feels he can come and talk to his parents rather than expect them to go nuclear and so hide his activities instead. (I fully expect that as he gets older he’ll have things he’ll hide from his parents – I’ve been a teen boy – and every teen boy needs a closet to hide his porn in… metaphorically speaking of course).

So, fire away. Was my reaction too calm? (Should I check my meds dosage?) Am I a terrible parent and should I turn myself in to Facebook and Child Services right away? :slight_smile: I checked everywhere when we first got him but he didn’t seem to come with an instruction manual, so I’m making a lot of this parenting thing up as I go along.

Seriously though, any advice on dealing with the increasingly independent actions of pre-teen boys will be read with interest, and questions answered (if possible).

I don’t think you did the right thing. I don’t have a facebook and don’t think kids should. However, this isn’t a state your opinion on facebook thread. You want opinions about your situation. I don’t agree. You told a lie. Your child is not 13. You’re allowing them to lie to do something they want for selfish reasons. Facebook, as is use of the internet, is a priviledge. Not a right. You’re telling your child it’s ok to break rules and lie simply because one wants something. So, if he wants something you’re setting the example it’s ok to lie and break and rules. I think you should say no. If I had a child, I would say “No, facebook requires you to be 13. You maybe have one when you’re 13. Rules are put in place for a reason. We must follow them as long they don’t violate your rights or other’s rights.”

I don’t think your response was too calm, but I don’t think you did the right thing. I think you should have very calmly said something along the lines of, “You did the right thing by letting us know about this, but I think you probably understand why we’ll have delete the account. Facebook requires users to be 13 and, since you’re not, we’ll go ahead and get rid of your page.” No nuclear option required, but that doesn’t mean there are no consequences at all.

My 12- and 9-year old nieces both have Facebook accounts. So they had to lie to get them? I had no idea there was an age restriction. I already don’t like the idea of kids on Facebook and now I like it even less.

I don’t think you are a terrible parent at all, but if you feel something is wrong and then go ahead and allow it, you are sending mixed messages at best.

The point he receives, IMO, is that he was allowed to do something you had previously said was not ok.

A result of COPA I believe.

I think you handled it ok. If you still don’t want him on there, you can stop it, but for now you can see if anyone would message or friend him and take appropriate steps.

  • shrug *

I dunno. The world is not a very black-and-white place, and people who try to go through life adhering to every last dinky regulation while expecting those around them to do the same usually have a bad go of it. I also think your, ahem, porn closet metaphor brings up an important point: he ought to have a sense that he can come to you with his problems, even problems he himself has created, and expect that while you’ll be mad, you’ll at least work with him to come to a sensible solution rather than simply raining fire down upon his head.

You know your son. You said he got pale. He seemed to know he did something wrong, according to you. I don’t think he’s going to come away from this thinking, “I can get away with anything!”

I honestly wouldn’t have a problem teaching a kid that it is OK to break Facebook’s TOS. Putting in fake information was a smart move to make a more anonymous account. Facebook is just a tool, not an authority figure.

I hope Alex was squirming with guilt because he disobeyed his parents, not because he submitted fraudulent information to Facebook.

I think you should be happy that you have stuffed enough guilt into the kid that he was compelled to admit his mistake with no prodding from you or the mother. Or phrased another way, you should be happy that your kid is honest and thoughtful enough to come forward when he realized he committed a wrong.

I think you handled it pretty well. You went through the steps of why what he did was wrong and told him to not do it again. You checked up on what he did and made sure he didn’t have anything inappropriate up on the page. You got confirmation that he followed the privacy rules of the computer club. Seems like the bases are covered.
I guess you just have to ask yourself if he had come beforehand and asked if he could have a Facebook page would you have lied about his age to get him on there? if not, you should tell him he can’t use it. Because, he played you pretty well. But, if you would have let him do it if he asked to get on there then I really don’t see the problem.

I think you did fine. He came to you with the issue and you showed yourself to be a serious, but reasonable adult. THAT is what smart kids need. He just wants to play some games that all the rest of them are on anyway. Big deal. Most of those TOS rules are in place because companies are afraid of liability. GOOD rules are for the direct safety of everyone. Stupid, piddling ones are for protection from teh lawyers. He’s nine, and no longer an unthinking baby to be protected from everything. He’s at an age where he needs to begin learning the difference. If everyone followed all the rules all the time, we’d still be serfs.

I don’t think kids should be on facebook, but not because it’s the TOS. Does anyone actually pay attention to the age restriction things on websites?

I’m not generally anti-facebook, but I do think that allowing him to claim to be 13 sends the message that it’s okay to lie if you can get away with it.

Thank you all for the feedback.

Point taken… I do think partially it was the nature of the offense that made me less inclined towards punishment… but in doing so I can see the potential harm of the “it’s OK to do what you want” message I’m sending…

I did consider that for about 2 seconds… because I know what I was like as a child… and know that after my mother found and confiscated, err… “inappropriate” materials from my bedroom that I found better hiding places and never mentioned such things again to them. I don’t know if Alex will / would have done the same… but deletion passed through my mind before I settled on another option.

Yes… which gets back to why my feelings are not as clear here… the rules are in place in Facebook’s TOS because of US legislation, with which I feel little compulsion to comply. An (adult) friend of mine has two Facebook profiles – she write err… adult fiction… under a pseudonym. This is also a TOS violation… and get a big meh from me.

Now this isn’t the same… she’s a grown woman and responsible for her own actions… this is about Alex doing something he ought not to have done… and it may be that my inability to work up any moral outrage of the nature of the infraction, rather than the infraction itself is confusing what should be a clear-cut issue. :confused:

I’m sure none of us have ever violated a EULA or breached copyright for instance. :slight_smile:

I’d just like to point out for the record that it wasn’t an entire closet full of porn… hypothetically speaking… (Hey, this was back in the pre-net days… pre-BBS even… the mags were 3rd hand from the older brothers of school friends… all hypothetically of course… :wink:

It’s a bit hard to tell when he gets pale since he’s about the colour of milk at the best of times, but yes… he was serious and contrite.

I think that whatever you both are doing with him is working very well. He came to you to tell you what he had done, he could have just not bothered. I think you handled it right. And keep doing whatever it is that is keeping communication open.

I think nine is too young.

Our family had problems with a 12 year old calling another niece a slut & embarrassing the older girl in front of her friends. Only giving that as example of possible pitfalls. You don’t know what the slightly older friends might get up to in the future.

And we’re not even Catholic or nuthin. :smiley:

Mmm… interesting point. If he’d asked beforehand… I would probably have agreed and tried to help him set up a page, and then run up against the age restriction (which like xanthous i didn’t know existed – I thought there might be a parental consent option for minors but hadn’t investigated it).

Then… I really don’t know… the lying about the age thing is the part of this that makes me squirm a bit… not the breaking the TOS bit mind, just the actual lie itself… which comes from my upbringing…

On reviewing my posts above I can see I’ve missed a number of "S"es. Here are some extra: sssssss. Please insert in posts as needed.

This is what I decided when my son (10 at the time) signed up for Facebook. I know it’s against the TOS for him to have an account, and I don’t want to be seen to be condoning violation of rules, but I know if I had shut him down, he’d just create another account and keep it secret from me.
I chose what I consider the least of evils Getting him to agree that he’s doing something he’s not supposed to, and friending him on Facebook, so I can keep an eye on what happens to him on it. It felt a bit of an impotent choice, but I think it’s the least worst in total.

It doesn’t have to be a slippery slope, or a precedent for the approach to any other set of rules.

I don’t view having a facebook as a worse thing for young people than it is for older people. Your kid sounds like a computer whiz already, which makes me think that his precociousness has earned him the right to be trusted with this. Just maybe let him know that next time he should come to you first, instead of after the fact.

Several of my sub-13 family members’ parents have allowed them to create facebook accounts (to play farmville and yoville) and it’s just fine. They don’t let them put up pictures or locations or anything like that. As long as the kid is required to stay your facebook “friend” and to let you know the password until he is legally old enough to manage his own account.

The friends are 11-12… and one of the issues that worries my wife is his susceptibility to peer pressure – the other kids that have accounts aren’t 13 either – they are older than him and he wants to do what they’re doing. (It complicates things further that he’s often mistaken for older than he is because of his height, but he doesn’t have all the emotional maturity of the older boys).

These are kids he plays with IRL and we do want to encourage his socialising; he’s an only child and interacting with older and younger kids is something we see as desirable.

Several of them are starting Intermediate this year, whereas he’s in the 2nd to last year at Primary so they may well stop seeing each other as much as the older kids find other friends at their new school, though they’ll still be in the neighbourhood. By the time he gets to Intermediate they’ll be off to High School.

(For the non-NZers) :slight_smile: NZ schools start at age 5 and tend to break into years 1-6, 7-8, and 9-13. Alex is year 5 now, some of his friends have gone into year 7 and are now attending a different school.