It has become quite clear from listening to my twelve-year-old’s friends that just about every middle-schooler has a Facebook account. Most of my daughter’s friends are too impatient to use old-fashioned email.
I was hesitant about letting her have one until after having “friended” a few of my daughter’s real friends and seeing that this was actually a great way to keep a hand in your child’s social life. Was I going to be the only dinosaur that kept their daughter from socializing the way kids do it today?
She has demonstrated responsibility with the use of her email and computer time. Having skipped a grade, she is accustomed to acting more mature for her age. After she was invited to play in a 16-and-under softball tournament, I finally decided to let my twelve-year-old daughter turn thirteen in the cyber-world and have a Facebook account.
1. I set up the account with a password I can remember.
2. I am her “friend” and can see everything she posts.
3. No “friending” anyone she doesn’t actually know.
4. No “friending” any adult without my explicit permission.
5. No status updates that tell people too much personal information.
6. No mentioning of her siblings’ names.
After one week, the positives include:
1. Computer time is a great incentive to get her to clean her room.
2. I can see what kind of things her friends are talking about.
3. She and I can play online games together.
4. We can “chat” between floors without yelling.
5. I can forward her all kinds of information that she is more likely to read because it is in email format.
6. Her little sister, who is ten, has two years to show responsible use of the computer time to earn the privilege of her own Facebook account. In the meantime, she can maintain my “Farmville” for me.
7. It is easier for her to keep in contact with relatives and out-of-state friends.
8. I am happy to see how many friends my daughter has.
The negatives include:
1. Exposure to “text” acronyms threatens the development of English skills.
2. Computer time encroaches on reading time.
3. Status updates encourage the focus on “me” and attention-getting.
So the positives outweigh the negatives. This is the simplest decision-making-algorithm, which I was fortunate to learn early in life.
* Author's addendum:
My new third-person version of this article is published at Examiner.com
I offer some suggestions to alleviate the negatives:
1. Encourage the use of journaliing.
2. Encourage the regular sending of hand-written thank you notes and letters to older relatives.
3. Encourage community service outside the home.
4. Speak about your internet rules to the other adults in whose homes you child spends time.
With the proper precautions, you, the internet, and your pre-teen can all get along.