It may not be the most erudite periodical on the market, but every once in a while People magazine has an article that gives me pause. Recently it was a quote by the President and First Lady saying that Sasha is too young for Facebook.
President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, told Barbara Walters in a sit-down interview on ABC's 20/20 on Friday that while their oldest daughter, Malia, 15, has limited access to Facebook, her little sister, Sasha, 12, isn't old enough for that.
"I still am not a big believer in Facebook for young people ... particularly for them, because they're in the public eye," the first lady said. "Some of it's stuff they don't need to see and be a part of ... So we try to protect them from too much of the public voice."
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Not literally too young since Sasha will soon be thirteen and eligible for an account, but emotionally too young. The situation for a sitting president's daughter is obviously different in some aspects from my children's experience with the Internet. For one, mine can go online without seeing things written about them by complete strangers (for the most part).
I'm more interested in this idea of social media not being a given. That just as there were parents who delayed their child's driver's license when they turned 16, even though the state believed they were eligible to drive, there are also parents who will ignore Mark Zuckerberg's recommendation of 13 and tell their kids that they're not ready to navigate social media while they're still trying to learn how to navigate face-to-face social relationships.
Facebook is especially difficult because unless your child and their friends only connect with those in his or her peer group, you have a site where adults are mixing with children and not always keeping in mind the varied audience. I can't expect other people to know the ins and outs of my friend list, so when they write on my wall, they do so thinking about what would be okay to say to me. Which may or may not be something they would ever say in front of my kids.
Sure, there are plenty of ways to set limits, but we're talking about a site that is known for being ever-changing. At some point, the amount of energy expended to manage my kid's privacy settings and what they can see exceeds the worth of the site.
And beyond that, there is the fact that social media is often a much rougher place verbally than the face-to-face world. The distance provided by the computer screen can give people the confidence to say things they would never say to someone's face. And that's not always a good thing.
I'm on the fence over whether our kids will be ready for Facebook when the time comes. I am comfortable with kid-focused social media sites such as Pottermore or Scratch, but Facebook -- despite its popularity with those over and under young adulthood -- was originally designed for people in college. It feels like a site you need to be a bit older to use.
Will you let your kids go on Facebook when they hit 13, or will you ask them to wait a bit longer before joining in the site?
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