By Kristen Paquet, Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.
Last night my 9-year-old son said “Mom, Logan wants me to be his friend on Facebook. Can I join Facebook, too?”
It was a question that I knew would eventually come as he got older and more into being with his friends. Even knowing this, I still wasn’t prepared for the question. It’s just like when I got the “Where do babies come from?” question. I had no idea what to say. My mind went racing in a thousand different directions: Okay, Kristen, think. Some of his friends are on Facebook, would it be that bad? I can monitor what he is saying and doing, right? If I show him how to use Facebook, would it be safe? Why doesn’t my husband ever get these questions!??
Hundreds of experts have weighed in on the subject of kids and Facebook and there are even more websites that have parents talking to other parents about what the right age and maturity level is. I’ve read advice that says age 10 is okay while others said not until 17. But all the expert documentation and parent advice in the world is difficult to remember when you are in that moment, just you and your child, with that question.
It’s an important decision to make, really. At this point in my son’s life, is Facebook even necessary? Don’t get me wrong, I like Facebook. I have an account of my own (which I allow my son to view with me and make comments to grandparents and cousins) and it has been a great way to reconnect with old friends. But the only “friends” my 9-year-old needs to keep in touch with are the ones on the playground every day. And, quite frankly, I’d rather he first learn to communicate in person with these friends instead of through a computer screen.
So as I was searching my brain for an answer to my son’s question, it was clear that I knew it all along. “Sorry, buddy. But your dad and I both agree that nine is too young for a Facebook account.” And it was as simple as that. Not that my son was happy with my answer, but after a longer discussion, he understood where I was coming from.
Do you think there is a “right” age for kids to be on Facebook? Or does it depend on the maturity level of the child? The decision I made is what was best for my family. What works best for yours?