Let us face it. Our children are now living in the digital age where everything moves at a faster speed and is less tangible than before.  When before we need only be concerned with telephone usage and tv time, now we have to worry about iphones, iPads, twitter, sms, many other handheld gaming devices and Facebook. All of these things are addictive and though fb etc are social media, they sometimes bring out the anti-social in us. “I’ll update you on my fb. Bye….” I couldn’t agree with this article on social networking and  poor grades more.

Which brings me to my question. When should kids start having a facebook account? What age is appropriate? Should a preteen have a facebook account?

My 9 year old has asked about facebook several times. FB has a above 13 year old age requirement ruling and yet most of her classmates have an account, some from as early as 7 and with several hundred “friends”. The other day, she asked me “Mummy, can I have one of those things, you know like you have, where you write and people write to you?” I think she meant my blog. 🙂

So far, my answer to her has been “No.” I  don’t think that telling her “No” at this age is restricting her or keeping her in the dark in this digital age. Some people say that you should not restrict your child because what one should do is to allow them to explore because it is inevitable. They say how will they learn if you don’t give them the freedom to try? They say if you prohibit it then the child will sneak behind your back which is worse. I agree with the fact that it is inevitable and with allowing children the freedom to explore but I don’t think the time is right for it now, at least not in my home. This decision is personal and this is how I feel about it though I know that many people feel differently. In time my girl (and my boy who hasn’t asked yet, he is 7) will have a facebook account and tweet and may even blog but not now.

To me, now is the time for her to learn other social skills and other forms of communication. Now is the time for her to learn to read and draw and run around kicking balls and skipping and play imaginary games when she has the time rather than spent it hunched in front of the pc updating status and looking for more “friends”. Social media can wait. There is plenty of time for that and she will not be a “katak di bawak tempurung” (backward) for being later than her peers. Afterall, she will have me as her teacher and her guide. In time, I will teach and guide her along but for now, even I do not have the time to guide her. (We are much too busy with homework and piano work alone).

Since I do not have the time to guide her, I cannot risk allowing her to explore on her own. (even though all she may do is logon and play games and chat with classmates.) She will only be allowed to explore once, she is taught about the good and the bad of it, about privacy etc and only when I have the time to supervise AND when she is older and more mature. At the moment, homework fills up all of my time and hers! It is hard to even find the time to make sure she gets some exercise and sleep. Why should I have to worry about facebook in our limited time!

“But mummy, my friends say fb has a lot of games. They play a lot of games on fb.” And we all know how addictive those games are don’t we? So, “No.” My girl will not be backward or left out or behind her peers simply because I say “No” to social media now. She may miss out a little and she may be a bit left out when her classmates share on fb but she will not have to deal with bullying and being left out on facebook itself. (like writing mean things on the wall or defriending or blocking etc). I have seen how some kids can be rather nasty online. If she wants to talk to her friends she can talk to them face to face. She sees them daily in school. As for relatives, a phone call is more personal and better. She will catch up in due time, easily and very quickly too and I am not afraid that restricting her now will make her rebellious. I will also not give in just because everyone is doing it or has it.

I think she does not need facebook in her life now and she will be better off without it and I have better things to do than checking her facebook regularly to monitor her friends and other activities but the time will come, the time will come ……. only it is not now.

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