Facing off on Facebook

I’M the first to admit I’m old school, a tad politically incorrect and maybe a little out of touch with technology. My daughter is convinced I roamed the Earth with a stegosaurus by my side, an image inspired by a song about a stegosaurus she
sang in kindy.

But you know things are a bit out of whack when your old mates start to look at you a bit funny, the ones from your era, the ones who should be on your page.

A month ago I ran into a friend, also the mother of a tween, and one with whom I share
similar parenting ideas. We rely on each other for support when our daughters gang up for matters they know require some negotiation. After pleasantries were exchanged the
subject turned to Facebook. The look of horror on my face when she told me her 12-year-old daughter was on the site must have been a
little extreme.

‘‘They’re all on it,’’ she said. ‘‘And some of them have been on it for years.’’

When someone says ‘‘they’re all on it’’, ‘‘they’re all doing it’’, ‘‘they’re all going’’ or ‘‘they all have it’’, you can’t but help wonder why you’re not on it, doing it, going to it or
having it. I stared rather blankly at my friend before feebly muttering that I didn’t know of anybody that age on it.
At which point the tween, never one to miss an opportunity to show her mother up, butted in to loudly announce she knew ‘‘lots’’ of kids
on Facebook. When the tween butts in like that I canusually conclude it’s a spur of the moment attempt to support her own agenda and doesn’t necessarily have substance.

So I took a different strategy and asked why my friend’s daughter needed to be on Facebook.

‘‘Of course she doesn’t need to be on it. She wants to be.’’

And that apparently explained everything.
But it didn’t.
There is an enormous chasm between a want and a need. The tween wants stilettos, I
want an interior decorator and grandpa probably just wants some peace from the pair
of us. But it ain’t going to happen.
Instead, the tween might get the new tights she needs, I’ll get some dental floss and
grandpa will get new pyjamas.

When the tween asked me months ago what age she’d be allowed to register on Facebook
I said I didn’t know and I really didn’t. All I knew was that the age of 12 didn’t feel right. Anyway, I was more interested in her mastering the art of verbal communication by
telephone rather than sending a text, so another form of electronic communication
didn’t sit easy with me.

However, intrigued by the conversation, I searched Facebook and sure enough there was a bunch of 12-year-olds I knew. One had 419 friends. Who the hell were they?
Then I read that the principal of Northern Beaches Christian School is rallying against
pupils registered on Facebook if they are under the social network’s minimum age of 13.
I never knew there was a minimum age — my reluctance was purely instinctive — but this meant parents either don’t know about or had facilitated their child’s registration.

I find both theories disturbing.

Surely computer use for children under 13 is monitored in the home. How could a parent not know their child has a Facebook page? Alternatively, if parents are condoning their children submitting false information to sign up, what is that teaching them?
It’s teaching them purely and simply that regulations don’t matter — to thumb their
nose at authority.

What it’s not teaching their children is that sometimes, they have to wait just a little bit
longer to get what they want.

I better go. The stegosauraus needs needs some air.

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2 Responses to Facing off on Facebook

  1. Russell Cawthorne says:

    “The Social Network” left me unimpressed with both the movie and Mark Zuckerberg — at least the Mark Zuckerberg portrayed in the film. A few days ago I saw an interview with someone who knew him in college and, as I recall, was writing a biography. It was a very difference story that emerged and a very different Mark Zuckerberg.
    Underlying Zuckerberg’s concept for Facebook was the principal that everyone should have one face. Unlike the pseud-swept wastes of untamed cyberland, I am pretty sure all my Facebook friends are real people, most of whom I have met at some time.
    This is not to say that everyone should show all the facets of the one face to everyone, indeed discretion and protection of privacy on Facebook is essential. A bit like in real life, actually. It is not that hard to restrict what information you volunteer and control with whom it is shared. Probably easier than in real life, come to think of it.
    I agree that parents need to teach their kids these things and guide their online activity for their own well-being. There seems to me to be far too much inclination to slough off this responsibility to some official cyber-nanny. (And while they are at it, how about teaching them to text real words in a real language?)
    With computers and phones and the rest being so mobile and everything becoming more like everything else, monitoring is a long-lost cause.

  2. Anne Weeks says:

    ‎’My Facebook friends’ by L. Gregory Jones in Christian Century July 15, 2008, p. 35
    ‘The Church on Facebook’ by Lenora Rand in Christian Century June 30, 2009, pp. 22-5
    ‘The Pastor on Fracebook: Boldly Going Where Everyone Else Goes’ by Amy C. Thoren in Word & World, Volume 30, Number 3, Summer 2010, pp. 272-80.
    All available through ATLA Serials – I haven’t read them yet…

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