Survey reveals startling facts about Tweens on Facebook
In spite of law banning children under 13 from opening social media accounts, millions of tweens, often with their parents' approval, are on Facebook.
This story was originally covered by PRI's Here and Now. For more, listen to the audio above.
Facebook's minimum age is 13, and there is federal law that bans children under 13 from opening social media accounts without verifiable parental consent. But millions of tweens, often with their parents' approval, simply enter a fake birth date to open a social media account.
"I didn't know I was breaking the law at the time," mom and Boston Globe blogger Deborah Kotz said of her decision to allow her 12-year-old to enter a fake birthday into Facebook. "Had I known that it was a federal law, I probably would have thought twice about it and actually explained to my son that it was against the law."
"Unfortunately, when a parent does that, they essentially are modeling for their children that it's ok to misrepresent yourself, to basically lie about yourself," says Dr. Michael Rich, Director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Children’s Hospital in Boston.
At 13 years old, kids don't have the necessary impulse controls to handle the responsibility that comes with a Facebook account. At the same time, "13 is a pretty arbitrary number," according to Dr. Rich. "It does not necessarily fit with any major development change in the kids brains."
"There are 11 year olds who can handle social media very well and there are 18 year olds who can't," Rich says. He recommends dealing with the Facebook by talking to children in an open way, rather than using software to try to keep kids from doing bad things. "The best hardware to use is a dining room table, and the best software is what you put in your own kid's head," he says. "There's no software that you can put on your computer that they can't get around."
He shared one startling statistic: "Six percent of [tweens surveyed] said they had been asked for a photograph of themselves by someone they didn't know. "
As a mother, Kotz tries her best to keep up an eye on her kids' online activities, "I do make a point to friend both of my kids and periodically, I'd say maybe two or three, four times a week, I go on their Facebook pages just to see what they're up to." She takes the tack that "this is a privilege, it's something that can be take away from you at any time."
Though Facebook may bring a new set of problems, Kotz points out, "I don't think that social media sites are necessarily in a category in and of themselves, I think that with anything you give your child there's always a risk that they may use it wrongly."
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