My two kids who are under the age of 13 don’t know about Facebook, and I could not be happier. They don’t care about Facebook because no one in my house is obsessed with the site, and the kids in school are not talking about it. That is all about to change.
Facebook is very close to launching an under-13 Facebook site. The launch will come with intensive media exposure. So kids who are social media innocents today will be corrupted by next year. Expecting a backlash, Facebook is already promising strict security measures. Kids won’t be able to accept or make friend request or access games without parental approval. But there are sure to be loopholes, and every time a child connects with someone they should not, everyone will hear about it. TV news loves stories that scare the hell out of parents.
So why is Facebook opening up its gates to minors? Because now that they have had a controversial and unimpressive public stock offering, they need to make stockholders happy before more and more sell off their shares. Facebook needs to create another revenue stream, and right now they are missing out on the 11- to 13-year-olds who use their parents’ credit cards to buy music, videos, movies, games, jewelry, clothes, accessories and shoes. They are cash calves. And once the kids are hooked at a young age, Facebook is hoping to have them and their dollars for life.
My biggest problem with the Facebook youth movement is the peer pressure it will create. As I said, my kids don’t know that Facebook exists and are not missing a thing. Once kids in their school start talking about it, all is lost. I really don’t need my little kids jonesing for more time on the Internet. Forget sodas and transfats; computers and video games are the main culprits of childhood obesity. Children used to run and play outside and take in all of the soda and pizza they could hold. Now the only parts of the body that many kids exercise are their fingers.
I assume Facebook will continue to collect information on even the pre-teens, giving them an even richer and more valuable dossier of information. That is the point that Facebook seems to miss as they address parental oversight concerns. I am at least as concerned about Facebook business practices as I am about creepy friend requests.
Finally, I am concerned about a social media addiction. Sure, Facebook might have controls, but what is to keep kids from wandering off onto other sites where they can roam free? Facebook may be safe, but it is but a small protected glade in the dark forest of the Internet where there is porn and pedophiles and pimps, oh my!
My 28-year-old daughter, Stacia, and 27-year-old son, Jonathan, are Facebook addicts. I will admit that I learn more about them from their Facebook pages than I do from them in person. It will break my heart when that happens with my eight-year-old son, Michael, and my five-year-old son, David. I don’t need Mark Zuckerberg trying to make that day happen any sooner.