This may sink without a trace but if it doesn’t then I’ll say up front: I asked for input, come what may. (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.
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.
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? 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).