My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, a Research Assistant Professor in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, and a Fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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Why Parents Help Children Violate Facebook’s 13+ Rule

Announcing new journal article: “Why Parents Help Their Children Lie to Facebook About Age: Unintended Consequences of the ‘Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act’” by danah boyd, Eszter Hargittai, Jason Schultz, and John Palfrey, First Monday.

“At what age should I let my child join Facebook?” This is a question that countless parents have asked my collaborators and me. Often, it’s followed by the following: “I know that 13 is the minimum age to join Facebook, but is it really so bad that my 12-year-old is on the site?”

While parents are struggling to determine what social media sites are appropriate for their children, government tries to help parents by regulating what data internet companies can collect about children without parental permission. Yet, as has been the case for the last decade, this often backfires. Many general-purpose communication platforms and social media sites restrict access to only those 13+ in response to a law meant to empower parents: the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). This forces parents to make a difficult choice: help uphold the minimum age requirements and limit their children’s access to services that let kids connect with family and friends OR help their children lie about their age to circumvent the age-based restrictions and eschew the protections that COPPA is meant to provide.

In order to understand how parents were approaching this dilemma, my collaborators — Eszter Hargittai (Northwestern University), Jason Schultz (University of California, Berkeley), John Palfrey (Harvard University) — and I decided to survey parents. In many ways, we were responding to a flurry of studies (e.g. Pew’s) that revealed that millions of U.S. children have violated Facebook’s Terms of Service and joined the site underage. These findings prompted outrage back in May as politicians blamed Facebook for failing to curb underage usage. Embedded in this furor was an assumption that by not strictly guarding its doors and keeping children out, Facebook was undermining parental authority and thumbing its nose at the law. Facebook responded by defending its practices — and highlighting how it regularly ejects children from its site. More controversially, Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg openly questioned the value of COPPA in the first place.

While Facebook has often sparked anger over its cavalier attitudes towards user privacy, Zuckerberg’s challenge with regard to COPPA has merit. It’s imperative that we question the assumptions embedded in this policy. All too often, the public takes COPPA at face-value and politicians angle to build new laws based on it without examining its efficacy.

Eszter, Jason, John, and I decided to focus on one core question: Does COPPA actually empower parents? In order to do so, we surveyed parents about their household practices with respect to social media and their attitudes towards age restrictions online. We are proud to release our findings today, in a new paper published at First Monday called “Why parents help their children lie to Facebook about age: Unintended consequences of the ‘Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act’.” From a national sample of 1,007 U.S. parents who have children living with them between the ages of 10-14 conducted July 5-14, 2011, we found:

  • Although Facebook’s minimum age is 13, parents of 13- and 14-year-olds report that, on average, their child joined Facebook at age 12.
  • Half (55%) of parents of 12-year-olds report their child has a Facebook account, and most (82%) of these parents knew when their child signed up. Most (76%) also assisted their 12-year old in creating the account.
  • A third (36%) of all parents surveyed reported that their child joined Facebook before the age of 13, and two-thirds of them (68%) helped their child create the account.
  • Half (53%) of parents surveyed think Facebook has a minimum age and a third (35%) of these parents think that this is a recommendation and not a requirement.
  • Most (78%) parents think it is acceptable for their child to violate minimum age restrictions on online services.

The status quo is not working if large numbers of parents are helping their children lie to get access to online services. Parents do appear to be having conversations with their children, as COPPA intended. Yet, what does it mean if they’re doing so in order to violate the restrictions that COPPA engendered?

One reaction to our data might be that companies should not be allowed to restrict access to children on their sites. Unfortunately, getting the parental permission required by COPPA is technologically difficult, financially costly, and ethically problematic. Sites that target children take on this challenge, but often by excluding children whose parents lack resources to pay for the service, those who lack credit cards, and those who refuse to provide extra data about their children in order to offer permission. The situation is even more complicated for children who are in abusive households, have absentee parents, or regularly experience shifts in guardianship. General-purpose sites, including communication platforms like Gmail and Skype and social media services like Facebook and Twitter, generally prefer to avoid the social, technical, economic, and free speech complications involved.

While there is merit to thinking about how to strengthen parent permission structures, focusing on this obscures the issues that COPPA is intended to address: data privacy and online safety. COPPA predates the rise of social media. Its architects never imagined a world where people would share massive quantities of data as a central part of participation. It no longer makes sense to focus on how data are collected; we must instead question how those data are used. Furthermore, while children may be an especially vulnerable population, they are not the only vulnerable population. Most adults have little sense of how their data are being stored, shared, and sold.

COPPA is a well-intentioned piece of legislation with unintended consequences for parents, educators, and the public writ large. It has stifled innovation for sites focused on children and its implementations have made parenting more challenging. Our data clearly show that parents are concerned about privacy and online safety. Many want the government to help, but they don’t want solutions that unintentionally restrict their children’s access. Instead, they want guidance and recommendations to help them make informed decisions. Parents often want their children to learn how to be responsible digital citizens. Allowing them access is often the first step.

Educators face a different set of issues. Those who want to help youth navigate commercial tools often encounter the complexities of age restrictions. Consider the 7th grade teacher whose students are heavy Facebook users. Should she admonish her students for being on Facebook underage? Or should she make sure that they understand how privacy settings work? Where does digital literacy fit in when what children are doing is in violation of websites’ Terms of Service?

At first blush, the issues surrounding COPPA may seem to only apply to technology companies and the government, but their implications extend much further. COPPA affects parenting, education, and issues surrounding youth rights. It affects those who care about free speech and those who are concerned about how violence shapes home life. It’s important that all who care about youth pay attention to these issues. They’re complex and messy, full of good intention and unintended consequences. But rather than reinforcing or extending a legal regime that produces age-based restrictions which parents actively circumvent, we need to step back and rethink the underlying goals behind COPPA and develop new ways of achieving them. This begins with a public conversation.

We are excited to release our new study in the hopes that it will contribute to that conversation. To read our complete findings and learn more about their implications for policy makers, see “Why Parents Help Their Children Lie to Facebook About Age: Unintended Consequences of the ‘Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act’” by danah boyd, Eszter Hargittai, Jason Schultz, and John Palfrey, published in First Monday.

To learn more about the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), make sure to check out the Federal Trade Commission’s website.

(Versions of this post were originally written for the Huffington Post and for the Digital Media and Learning Blog.)

Image Credit: Tim Roe

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35 comments to Why Parents Help Children Violate Facebook’s 13+ Rule

  • Matt

    My son asked me daily if he could sign up for Facebook before he was 13 (as many of his friends already had). I said no. Their policy says 13 and I thought it was a teachable moment. So he waited. And…that’s it. Now he has an account. He doesn’t think about the fact the he had to wait. Time will tell, but I think learning to respect policy and parents was a valuable lesson.

  • Dan

    I’m with Matt. I faced a similar situation with my 12 year old daughter and gmail. The lesson of respecting the rules and being patient is a good one for all of us, regardless of age.

    That said I agree that there needs to be a national discussion of privacy in the age of social media.

  • Sam

    Thank you for this! My colleague and I spend time talking to middle and elementary school parents about this very issue on a regular basis. It is an excellent topic for a discussion of ethics, and teaching ethical decision making. Rule breaking can sometimes appear harmless, but what lesson are we teaching young people when we go against a guideline or rule? Facebook rules aren’t local, state or federal laws, but they are there for a reason. If we decide the rules don’t apply to our children, what are we modeling for future ethical dilemmas that will inevitably have greater consequences? Recently, I noticed that my 6th grade nephew was no loner one of my Facebook friends. I had reservations about his participation in Facebook when he first joined, and so I asked my sister about it when I noticed his absence. Apparently his account had been deleted…by Facebook. My sister’s response to her son, when he asked about getting another Facebook account, was that they had clearly broken a rule and would wait until he turned 13. I thought it was an excellent natural consequence of rule breaking.

  • Sam Sethi

    My wife and I thought long and hard about this. My wife has worked with COPS and NSPCC in the UK and we wanted our child to wait but the reality is when they move from junior school (Yr6) through to senior school (Yr7) they mix with a wider group of friends and their social life begins. We wanted our child to wait but did not want her to be social outcast and be the last. Its a fine line but this would not be an issue if COPPA said the age limit was 12+

  • Mike

    I couldn’t disagree more with Matt about this being a teachable moment. This reminds me of parents who allow their 13 year old children to watch PG-13 movies for the first time. (Maybe a certain 11 year old should enjoy Fantastic Four. Maybe a certain 13 year old just shouldn’t watch As Good As It Gets. I think this is a good example, since I’m not saying parents SHOULD let their preteens on facebook, just that I think the decision should be the parents’, not the website’s.)

    Respecting the policies of some website doesn’t strike me as a worthwhile endeavor, indeed, it seems like most people have far to rigid an adherence to rules, in this case rules issued by some impersonal corporation motivated by smoother dealing with some law on a topic he likely didn’t even know there existed laws about.

    Just as valuable of lessons are, “Sometimes it’s easier to ask forgiveness than get permission” and “I decide what you do, not some website’s Terms of Service or even the US government”.

    As far as respecting his parents, of course that’s essential, but I’m not sure how this teaches that. If anything, it doesn’t reinforce respect for your role as a parent by delegating decisions to far-off people who don’t know your child.

  • I signed up when I was 12 (recreated my account now) and I don’t see anything wrong with it. Nothing bad happened, and nothing bad will happen if you’re sensible (e.g. Go with the default privacy settings or more). It’s not Facebook’s fault if something happens, it’s yours, it’s sort of like trying to blame crashes on the tarmac, not somebody’s stupid driving!

  • Guy

    I read your conclusions (haven’t read the whole study yet), and I must say, that it seems you miss another point here.

    First of all, I must admit – I’m not a U.S citizen, and I do not have a Facebook account. I’m actually all against it, mainly because of privacy issues. Facebook reveals personal information on a daily basis, and changes its Terms of Service (especially concerning personal data) every now and then, without informing its users. I also had some bad experiences regarding Facebook, but that a whole other story.

    This is not what I meant when I wrote you were missing a point. What I meant was, that the fact that there is a restriction, guides parents to a certain age, in which it’s OK to let their children use the social media tools. I think that if you would study 10-11 year-old children and below, you’d find that parents aren’t letting their children to defy the Terms of Service regarding minimum age.

    I don’t have children of my own just yet, but I look at my friends’ children: when they reached the age of 10, they already asked their parents to open an account on Facebook (mainly because they saw that their older brother had one), but their parents refused to do so. Only when the children turned 12 and above, their parents were willing to assist in creating the account. I don’t think that would have happened, if Facebook didn’t have any restrictions.

    I’m sure COPPA should be re-thought and adjusted to focus on today’s problems, but we should also admit, that this law makes more than just a bit of sense. I wouldn’t want that my 9 or 10 year old son or daughter, will have an account just yet. Facebook is a good advertising platform, and exposing children to that kind of platform, should be done when they’re old enough to understand the meaning of this kind of platform.

    Another issue, is that people rarely understand the fact, that having a Facebook account, is like having a Tattoo. Everything you upload to Facebook, is going to be there forever and ever. And I don’t think that 10 year old children are able to comprehend that. Moreover – I’m not sure if most of the teenagers are able to comprehend that.

    But the least we can do, is make sure they understand right from wrong, and they understand what we mean when we talk about those issues. From this point of view, the difference between 10 year old children and 12-13 year old children is usually enormous.

    I guess you can find many more reasons why such restrictions are necessary, but I wanted to point out the first things that came to mind.

  • EJ

    What’s stopping Facebook from complying with COPPA? If they offered a registration flow that mandated that a parent was already on Facebook and provided a means for that parent to monitor everything the child does until they’re 13, then it seems like <13 year olds could sign up without using a fake birthday.

  • Michele

    I agree with the age 13 restriction. I have children who I made wait and I have step-children whose mom didn’t make them wait. I see a huge difference in how they handle the site both in maturity level and what they deem appropriate use. Young tweens (developmentally) are not mature enough to understand the impact of the medium. Their capacity to process cause and effect and to think about their actions before doing something is not fully developed. Yes, they need to be taught how to use the platform, but not until they are older. Just like driving, you have to wait to get your license for a reason.

  • Kevin

    @Sam Sethi

    I feel sorry for your daughter personally. Apparently you’ve taught her that being part of the crowd and fitting in is more important than anything else. When “the crowd” is doing drugs or having wild sex, the message you’ve already sent is jump right in so you aren’t a social outcast. Since you’ve taught her that her self-esteem comes from what everyone else thinks of her, and not what’s inside, you’re headed for trouble with her.

    And I also feel sorry for us in the future. And if COPPA sets the restriction to 12+, there will be “parents”, (I use the term loosely) just like you that will say, “Its a fine line but this would not be an issue if COPPA said the age limit was 11+”. Instead of giving into your daughter, teach her real values and set boundaries. In other words, be a parent. You’re just creating a spoiled brat that the rest of us will have to deal with later.

  • I find this very interesting; i personally am a 16 year old writing an essay on the effect’s that Facebook has on modern-day teenager’s behaviour in the U.S. My take on this is that Facebook is a means of following friendship-driven practices; however I think that it should be limited to those are at least 13 years old, as the child being raised with parents who don’t bother with such things will end up regretting it when teen social normities may include drinking or posing provactive pictures which in-turn influence teen behaviours. A good parental call would be to monitor their use of Facebook; and leave that massive photo uploading platform for later, or until adequate knowledge is obtained on how NOT to use Facebook. Meanwhile, MSN is just as good for maintaining friendship-driven activities without the need of “posing” for photo’s while still defining themselves as people. I do really appreciate this blog, and I am a fan of boyd’s work despite not reading extensively into all her research!

  • Love your blog here. Please consider posting or cross posting blogs such as this on Technology Integration in Education as well. Our combined membership numbers well over 10000 members and growing. Your contribution would be greatly welcomed.

  • paul

    This sounds a little disingenuous to me. The evidence seems to be along the lines that 13 might be a little too old for some children/adolescents to wait to join social networks (just as there’s evidence that 16/18 may be a little too old for some adolescents to drive, or 21 may be too old for some young adults to drink legally). So what kinds of alternatives are we proposing here?

    (I ask this partly in the abstract, and partly as the parent of a 6-year-old who’s been online for about a year — as have plenty of his friends — at carefully monitored COPPA-compliant sites. And at the commercial “free” sites he’s continually bombarded not only with product advertising but also by apparent shills pretending to be kids inviting him to upgrade to the paid version. If kids his age were confronted by a less-regulated environment, it’s likely that most parents would restrict internet access even more than they do now.)

  • I’m impressed by the number of people who have so much time that, in addition to raising their own kids, they are willing to parent mine as well.

  • The third possibility is that the kids themselves lie about their age to get on Facebook, as was the case with my son. Basically, he and his friends all set up their own pages during their digital art class (they were supposed to be doing digital art) last year, 6th grade. He just lied about his age. We had a whole conversation about how disappointed we were that he lied. However, we did not make him delete his page. What we did was make him friend both my wife and I. Also, we have a couple of other adult friends who he’s friended, so there are several people checking up on his activities in the space.

    Until FB has more stringent controls for age verification (a credit card number, perhaps) then this kind of thing will continue to happen. It’s just too easy.

  • Erin McJ

    Fantastic post on an interesting issue. A few loosely connected thoughts:

    1. Why do we get all het up about child privacy when it comes to twelve year olds wanting to share things about themselves, but yet have no taboo about parents posting pictures and stories about their infants on the internet? Why is consensual sharing from an older child more taboo than nonconsensual sharing about a much younger child?

    2. I agree with some other posters that current practice teaches children that it’s okay to lie about some things. However, I don’t think this is all bad. The very first thing an adult told me about the internet, when I was first trying it out at fifteen, was that I should always lie about my identity on the internet. I think that was actually a pretty good lesson about security and safety and it’s one I keep in mind today. It makes me think about whether a site actually needs the information it’s asking for, and whose interest I serve by providing it.

    3. Re: COPPA compliance, are ten-year-olds really too dumb to grab a credit card from Mom’s purse? Is it really better for a site that targets children to have an easy way to extract money from them? There must be something about this law that I don’t understand.

  • Kris Linville

    Personally, I like the idea of offering a set of parental controls on Social Media sites that allow the parents and NOT the children to control the privacy settings and to moderate the addition of friends and posts. I believe that would go a lot further toward protecting young people from predation than some arbitrary age limit. At least, it would where parents are at least trying to be good parents. In cases where there’s no strong parental figure, unfortunately, neither option is effective.

  • Sharon

    My 11 year old son has a Facebook account, and I helped him open it.
    I am divorced and immigrated with my current husband, while my ex and his family are still in our country of birth.
    Although my husband is an excellent parent and has been Dad to my boys since they were 3 and 4, I believe that family is very important, and this includes my ex’s family.
    I am on good terms with my ex, but have nothing to do with his family, but I encourage my boys to have a relationship with them.
    My conditions for opening an account for my boys was that they only ‘friend’ people that I approve first (so if they want to send a friend request, or someone sends them one, they ask me first). If they had a friend that I did not approve, the account would be closed.
    I did not insist that he ‘friends’ my husband and I, but he did that within the first five minutes of having the account.
    There has been nothing bad uploaded, he has not ‘friends’ on his list that put up bad or harmful content, and there has been a few times that I have realised he was talking to his biological Dad, his uncle’s wife and one or two others.
    It is a positive thing that they can have their own relationship with their family without me having to either encourage or stop them, they have adults who love them that they can talk to privately, and they share little jokes and incidents with my husband and I.
    I don’t see this as a negative at all and I have never regretted doing it.

  • Marcus

    In response to another commentator, the only “teachable moment” here is teaching kids to blindly respect authority. Just more prep for their happy awesome corporate governed lives.

  • Douglas Reynolds

    I’d love to homeschool my kids if not for the fact that their social life would be pretty dismal by not being around other kids all day long. Not having the ability to join Facebook would also similarly put a big crimp on their lives, even at a relatively young age. Like it or not, Facebook is pretty essential to living a moderately social life among kids. That being said, I’m not sure if most 11 or 12 year olds are up the responsibility involved. This isn’t really an issue for governments or COPPA to solve, this is an issue where parents have to instill positive values and educate their kids about the dangers online. I know that people worry about the privacy implications of Facebook vis-a-vis Facebook’s cozy relationships with their advertisers and the entire advertising ecosystem at [Marketing Site] and the entire commercialization of Facebook, but generally kids need to worry more about getting along well with friends, not talking to people they don’t actually know in real life, and avoiding giving their phone number out to anybody they don’t trust so it doesn’t end up on [Inappropriate Site] or other sites or just doing really dumb things online. I think that laws generally make it harder for new competitors to emerge to Facebook rather than actually helping maintain kids privacy: this is really a parental issue to solve. Some interesting comments here, among among those I disagree a bit with.

  • Chui Tey

    Thank you for bringing this up. It is a complex issue with a lot of unintended consequences.

    On the balance, I’d suggest that COPPA in the case of Facebook is more harm than good. Firstly, children at that age have a rosy confidence in rules and the necessity to keep them. Secondly, it is unlikely they are going to do anything untoward on Facebook under a watchful parent’s eyes. Thirdly, having a parent flout a Terms of Use, even though it is not law does not cast a good light on the parents, since children might see little distinction between sets of rules made by a group of people vs another set by a different group.

    While Marcus contends that this is about blindly respecting authority, there is another case to be made that one should explain to children that Facebook is a private property, belonging to Facebook Inc. And there are government rules that can get FB Inc into trouble if under 13s use their website.

    In a day when everyone is socially networked, it is a difficult choice for the parents. The vehement discussions on this forum points to that.

  • sk

    My friend and his wife created a Facebook page for their newborn daughter, which they plan to post to themselves until she is old enough to take it over. I tried to caution him not to do this. “Don’t you realize how dangerous this is? That you’ll never be able to correct this later? The System, the worldwide network of marketers, advertisers and dataminers, will always think she is 13 years older than she actually is?”

    When she is 13 and interested in the latest boy band, they’ll be offering her a home loan.
    When she is in college and looking to get her first credit card, they’ll be offering her bankruptcy counseling.
    When she settles down and starts having kids of her own, they’ll be trying to sell her on a retirement community.

    She will never know the joy of targeted advertising…

  • john

    you guys do realise that this is an article that is pro collecting marketing data on your kids right?

  • Michael

    @sk: You do realize that you can adjust your birth year on Facebook, right? Similarly, Google Adwords “tailor” the ads that appear to you based on your recent searches. A paper on “bankruptcy” or “homes” will yield the same result for a few days.

    On another note: I’ve been lying about my age since I was 12. I signed up for 13+ websites saying that I was 18. Games like Neopets where age 12 meant very restricted access (no communication — mainly just games), 13 meant restricted access (no gambling games, but forums), and 18 was full access to the site. It took less than a thought to change my birthday to six years prior.

    At 14, I wanted to make my own website but I didn’t have access to a credit card. However, I did have a bank account (linked to my mom’s) and Paypal can be linked to a bank account. After a week of verification, my Paypal and bank account were linked. I was able to completely bypass the bank rules that my mom has to be present to put in or take out any money. And I bypassed Paypal’s 18+ requirement.

    At around 14.5, I was starting to make money from the gaming website that I created. I taught myself how to program on the internet and was on my way to creating my very own (better) version of Neopets. A year later, I was making several thousand dollars a month and had a staff of 15 artists, user support, and graphic designers. (Nearly all of them were over 18.) It wasn’t enough to put bread on the table for them, but they worked part time and had throw around money.

    Now: if I was your child, how many of you would revoke my Paypal and website for moral and ethical reasons? How many of you would say that my parents are irresponsible or bad parents?

    Now I’m a sophomore studying at NYU. Had I not lied about my age on Neopets, Paypal, and every other website, I do not believe I would be where I am today. I’ve given out my phone number. I’ve given out my address. I’ve made hundreds of friends online and I’ve met dozens in real life. I still consider some of the people I met when I was 13 as my closest friends. Just this morning, I was video-chatting with a friend about her weekend plans and which sweater to wear before she headed off to class. She lives in California. We’ve known each other since 13.

    And to think that these actions would give half of you terrifying nightmares for months on end. My parents have always had an open relationship with my three siblings and myself. My mom didn’t have to play the role of Momzilla because she felt she created a strong, trusting, and honest relationship with her children. We as kids only had to do two things: respect our parents and receive high grades.

  • The new research is very flawed and has several financial conflicts of interest not disclosed by the researchers. First, Facebook forces parents and kids to lie because it refuses to set up a COPPA compliant section. Facebook is fearful of creating an opt-in regime precedent where users would begin demanding for the right to control what data is collected and how it is done. Facebook is a privacy problem, stealthily tracking a user and their network of friends for digital marketing and other services. If parents had been told when they had be questioned about Facebook’s data targeting and social media marketing ad practices (when they target teens for example) a different set of responses would likely have been given.

    The researchers avoided raising the children’s commercial protection concerns with the parents; nor did they analyze what COPPA has been doing to protect privacy. The report is timed to undermine the proposed FTC new rules, which has a comment deadline on Nov. 28. COPPA has been a success, because the kind of data practices found everyone online once someone turns 13 aren’t generally found on commercial kids sites.

    There are also conflicts of interest that need to be addressed by First Monday and the authors.

    It was funded by Microsoft Research, where Ms. Boyd works. While that is disclosed, what’s missing is: Microsoft owns a small piece of Facebook; its ad division focuses on social media marketing (like Facebook); the Research division itself works on online ad targeting; and Microsoft is currently lobbying on the COPPA proposed revision.

    Prof. Palfrey’s Berkman Center receives funding from Microsoft and he himself works as a VC investing in online advertising. Another researcher has been funded by Google. All these companies have a financial stake in the FTC’s COPPA proceeding.

    For background on digital marketing to youth (esp. junk food ads online targeting kids) see my site at digitalads.org.

    Meanwhile, readers should know that the leading privacy, consumer protection, child health and advocacy groups all support COPPA.

  • RSchaffer

    I am a teacher and parent of an almost 11 5th grader. First, a large percentage of my 7th graders who are not quite 13 already have accounts and have told me they have for “a couple of years”. I used to always doubt that until my own 5th grader began to come home daily asking for an account. I asked him who did he want to “befriend” since the age is 13 and there are no 13 year olds in his school. He replied with the age old “everyone in my class but me and a girl has one”. Of course I didn’t believe him until I was at a class function speaking to other parents and it came up, and yes out of the 22 students in the class my son and a girl in the class were the only ones without an account. When I asked the parents are they comfortable with breaking the “rules” in this regard (after assuring them I am not the facebook police), most said no, many averted their eyes and said nothing. That told me that perhaps they “know” what they are allowing is questionable. My question to them was, well what are you going to say when your child wants to break other “rules” that you deem actually unsafe to do?? What do you say then without looking hypocritical or diminishing your credibility with your child? Many said they had not thought that far ahead….sigh…as an educator and parent it saddens me…

  • Sam Roberts

    That told me that perhaps they “know” what they are allowing is questionable.

    No, it showed they knew you were questioning it, but that they have already answered the question for themselves. And, it showed how enormous the pressure for conformity is among parents, and how parents don’t like to out the choices they make. You’d get the same kind of response if asking how many parents bed-share with their babies and children. Parents know what they are not “supposed to do”, but often disagree with those rules, don’t obey them – but also don’t like calling attention, scrutiny, and gossip to themselves.

    As for your questions about breaking rules, I make it clear to my girls what the basis for rules are, why they exist, and the thought process by which I decide whether to obey them or not. Making informed moral choices is important. When my mother first drove through Florida, it was illegal for blacks and whites to use the same drinking fountain. That was wrong then, wrong now, and it doesn’t matter what the law said. How will you explain this to your students? Will you tell them there were errors in the law in the past, but there no longer is, and never will be again?

  • Aneesah

    I totally agree with everyone who spoke of the responsibility is with the parent- I agree that a parent has the right to explain/raise the child as they see fit-as far as neglected children, impoverished(poor) parents, uninformed, etc., parents…i agree that is what should be dealt with, to actually HELP everyone, children and adults alike. Companies/interest groups are very busy pushing their points/benefits into many minds, if adults were more empowered/informed-then better choices can be made for all. But that is the kicker right there, for if it was safer for adults to actually be adults, then children would not have such problems. Make a better world for adults, children are automatically taken care of. The adults who are achieving results in making such a world, where one is well informed/one is well armed, actually raise children better-for they understand Choices instead of Restricting…gets better results.

  • Andrew

    The teachable moment is to let your child lie to Facebook.

    Why should you tell the truth to a corporation? There is no point in doing so. They are moral-free, soul-free, so why tell them the truth about anything if you receive no benefit?

    Lie to Facebook. That–that is the true teachable moment.

  • I do not have children, but nephews, and I’m really concerned about the pressure social media is inflicting on them. My nephew is 11 and he recently had a big problem in school for saying that he filmed a fight between two girls…when he was asked about the reason for telling that lie, he told that he wanted to be cool, as cool as his friends who already had Facebook!!!! A couple of weeks before the incident, he asked my brother about why he couldn’t create a Facebook account (he had already tried without success) and the answer was of course because you’re not 13. My nephew was surprised because all his friends already have facebook accounts and are 11 like him, and he had assumed that he could just open an account. My brother explained my nephew that not because other kids (and parents)are bending this rule, he has to do the same, and he thought my nephew had understood it. But obviously the pressure is much stronger that any explanation or rule, and that is why I agree that social media pages must have more stringent controls for age verification. And I’m not saying that it’s not parent’s responsibility to watch for what their kids are doing online, but it would be an easier task if social media pages really cooperate.

  • Wondering

    You are quoted as saying,

    “The most deadly misconception about American youth has been the sexual predator panic,” “The model we have of the online sexual predator is this lurking man who reaches out on the Internet and grabs a kid. And there is no data that support that.”

    Wondering if you would count the thousands of arrests of Internet predators as “data”? Ever watch “To catch a predator on 20/20?

    What about the lifeless bodies of some who have been killed by Internets sexual predators? Is that “data”.

    Not panicking – just wondering

  • Diane

    This is an issue that just became all too real for me as I just found out that my 10 year old daughter set up a facebook page under a fake name and age. She did not have any privacy settings on the page and I was able to see everything she had posted…which included her real name, grade she was in and what school she attended! Needless to say, I was very upset. I have discussed facebook with her before when she asked me if she could have a page “because everyone else in her class has one”. I told her at that time that she would not have one until she was 13 because that was the age requirement set up by facebook. So she went behind my back.

    It’s hard for me to get her to understand WHY she shouldn’t have one yet when she sees other kids her age whose parents have HELPED their children set one up! A friend of ours has even set up a page for her SEVEN year old daughter!

  • binny

    Its not about only being under 13, its about little kids that are in adult conversations..i reported a 9 year old because her mom let her have a facebook account and every time they open one i report it and it gets shut down i think they gave up now..her aunt before she was on FB used to post dirty jokes on her wall, and so their other adult friends would have adult conversations on their was..and then the naive mother opened an account for her young child for the games (which were ment for adults for fun)but you know they add you as a friend and you need to friend your child so what ever is said between 1000 people either way..your child gets to see? right…then children always creep up onto pages where adults are talking and you know disagreeing and calling each other names…then the little 9 year old has to put her-his two cents in and guess what happens – they get called names and insulted by 35 year old adults…we don`t know they are 9..it got to the point this girl wanted to kill herself…

    to these parents that open accounts for their children DON`T when i catch them i report them..because bullyng is high and trust me a 40 year old man or woman will not stop to think your underage and if you get into it – be prepared to be insulted and picked on because if you say something chances are high you`ll be called stupid or moron etc..if you can`t handle it – stay off those pages, words stay 24 hours a day do you take your 9 year old night clubing? if not then don`t put them on fb! You are exposing them to adults of all ages.

  • binny

    ITS ABOUT CHILDREN GETTING INTO CONVERSATIONS WITH ADULTS AND WHAT EVER YOU SAY AS AN ADULT OF 40 OR 30 YOUR 8 OR 10 YEAR OLD IS LISTENING AND WATCHING EVERY WORD YOU TYPE TO YOUR ADULT FRIENDS AND THEIR FRIENDS…you don`t do that in real life so why is it ok on fb? Your kids are getting into adult conversations and talking to other adults when they visit a page – its about people fb is about people! thats why rules are in place.

  • JJ

    Concerning the age limit on Facebook. I don’t understand when it became alright to disregard rules and policies just because you don’t like them. If the age requirement is 13 then that’s what it is plain and simple. It’s what we all learned way back in kindergarten Wait your turn!!

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