Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What age for Facebook?

I am struggling at the fact that I am not struggling and wondering if I should in fact be struggling.

Did I totally lose you?

Here is what I do NOT struggle with:

My children who are not yet thirteen do NOT have a Facebook page.

That is not a struggle.  It is a clear cut rule.  Okay,  I know...I have broken rules before (swimming in a closed pool and going to Poltergeist instead of E.T. like I told my parents) and I am sure I will break some more again, but this is a rule that I am seeing a lot of children breaking with their parents actually setting up the accounts for them. The reason I know they know about their kids having a page is that they are "friends" with them.
The age limit for Facebook is thirteen, so before that, it should be a no brainer on whether or not to let your nine, ten, eleven, or twelve year old child use Facebook.

Of course, this goes back to the what I think is an obvious no brainer parenting strategy of NOT serving alcohol at your house to underage kids before a high school dance so that you can "make sure they drink responsibly," but that is a post for another day.

That being said, every parent will parent how they feel best, within reason, and let's just give each other the benefit of the doubt that we are all just trying to do our best with how we are raising our kids.  Let's not try to judge or get all prideful on what we think is best because at the end of the day, we do not know the dealings that truly go on in any home.

And I looked it up,  one study shows that only 5% of social media users are ages 0-17.  So maybe it is not really a lot, but just some children have accounts before they really should.

But my struggle is when do I let my children start?  That term "struggle" sounds harsher than it needs to.  I struggle with my patience sometimes, I struggle with not having late night snacks, but to put this decision in with those things that can ultimately be bad for you may be not quite right.  Or maybe it is right where it should be.

A decision that alone may not mean anything, but once habits form, could really take a toll on your emotional well-being.

Before you think this is a Facebook Bashing post, please know I think Facebook is a great way to connect.  And in the last few months, I have been grateful to Facebook for connecting me to like minded women who I would consider kindred spirits, as well as to old friends who I can get an overall, albeit brief, look at their families and feel a part of their lives.

And to be honest, I smile when I post a picture of my sweet kids and someone comments on how big they are getting or how cute they are.  Who doesn't like that kind of affirmation?  And although this study showed in one experiment being on Facebook can raise your self esteem, it also demonstrated that overall, a significant negative relationship between Facebook and self-esteem was uncovered (as Facebook interaction increased, self-esteem decreased).

So knowing that and knowing what I know now about Facebook, I am questioning when to get my kids involved in the social networking world, particularly Facebook.

Here is what  I deal with as an adult and what these teenagers are dealing with every time they go on Facebook.

1.  Everybody's life looks better than mine.

Anyone else with me on that one?

Oh, I know that people usually post the good, the cute, and the funny.  I do the same thing.  I most definitely did post the time my kids all wrote me beautiful "I miss you" letters, but I sure didn't advertise the time my son called me the White Witch from Narnia!

But, it is hard to constantly say, "Oh, they are only posting the good things...I have good things too."

Back when I was in high school, I would hear about the parties that went on during the weekend.  And occasionally I was even invited to a few.  But the ones that I was not invited to, I would just hear about.  I did not have to see actual pictures of all the people that were there.  I did not have to see private conversations going back and forth with private jokes that I was not privy to.  I just think that would be even harder for a junior high or high school student who is going through the stages of truly finding  his or her identity in Jesus and realizing who he or she really is.

Even now, one day on Facebook, I saw one of my old boyfriend's family pictures to Paris.  Seriously?!  Paris?! That is like a scene from a 30 Rock episode with me being Tina Fey!  I did not start wishing I was married to him, I did not want to rewrite my life.  I love my husband, but I did think it would have been fun to go to Paris! And to answer your question, I am NOT his friend on Facebook, but a friend of his wife's friend.  Oh, the webs we weave...

But it just makes a point in my mind, can younger people handle that kind of opportunity to compare at every post or should they have to at that age?  Is ignorance really bliss?
 I want them to stay connected and know when everyone is meeting at Red Robin after youth group, but I don't think they need even more of an influx of temptation to covet and more mind clutter in their lives.

It is like the time that my daughter and I went to a conference about purity and modesty and the speaker said, "Think of one thing you do not like about yourself."

My Sweet girl leaned over to me and whispered, "I can't really think of anything so I guess I will just pick something." And then she proceeded to start to not like that aspect of herself.  How backward is that?  But I feel like Facebook can be sometimes like that.  Young children are being exposed to more than their little minds or hearts are yet ready to truly come to terms with.  Too often kids can use harsh words without the accountability of seeing the hurt in someone's eyes. "Just kidding" can be used way too much. 

Now, I do have to put in here the amazing way that God turns things around in everything...like when people reach out on Facebook and ask for prayers and the hands and feet of Jesus show up to surround people with prayers and love and support...it doesn't get any better.  Praise God for that.

2. It can tend to take time away from Jesus.

I know there are some people who can just take or leave Facebook and I actually do not have a huge problem checking it all of the time (which is why when I get hacked, I do not know about it until someone mentions it), but when I do check it...

I don't know if it is the writer in me or the fact that I just love to connect with people, but I want to comment on things I read and I edit and revise and think about how to say things and write and rewrite again, so that a quick check of Facebook has now turned into two hours!

I cannot be the only one that looks at a few pictures and then suddenly finds themselves looking through 536 pictures of the most beautiful wedding photos just because you knew one of the guests attending.  That's right...did not even know the bride or groom!  Oh, but their favors were these sea shell things and they had these cute chalkboard signs that pointed to the games...just lovely!

Yes, lovely, but oh to have those two hours back and spend them with my Jesus!

3.  It puts focus on self whether or not you try...

Like I said, I do like it when a photo gets a cute comment.  I actually feel good for my children.  How crazy is that?  Like I am putting some kind of value for them, not even on them, but for them because someone noticed the photos.  Of course if they do not get any comments, I will just assume the post got buried.  I do tend to post late at night...

And of course you tend to post the good things.  Or at least I do. Most do, except some real folks who make us laugh with their postings of late night science fair finishes or the dear hearts that are vulnerable asking for prayer and for those moments, we are touched by humanity and it is good.

But how do I not post those Kale chips I made without thinking about myself?  But, really, how could I not?  I. made. kale. chips.  Enough said.

Okay, you can't throw the baby out with the bathwater and I think Facebook is here to stay.  Of course the only way I know that Facebook actually has people working there is the fact that our old neighbor's son works there.  You don't even want to know how cush those employees have it!  But you certainly would not know it from trying to reach them! I have yet to find out a way to talk to someone there...

But I never really set off to say I did not like Facebook.  I really do.  I think it has connected me to people in ways that I never would and most of the above concerns about Facebook are really concerns that I need to deal in with myself.

If I am spending too much time on it, I need to turn it off.  If it takes time away from Jesus, I need to schedule time with Him.  If I spend more time with Jesus, I will realize that I am His daughter and I do not have to worry about trips to Paris.  And I can get back to focusing on what is important...Jesus.

Now, my question is for those who went before me...when did you let your children start using Facebook and would you do the same thing again?  Was it an age thing or a maturity thing?

Thanks for your honesty and if you got here through Facebook...SO Cool, huh?!


Anonymous said...

Ok here goes... I have a 13 yr old and 11 yr old both boys. They have been told that our family does not participate in facebook and it is just that. I connect on a daily basis with those I love and not having facebook allows that time! I lost my mom several years ago and realized how precious time was then. We have not given them an age at which they could have facebook and they haven't asked. My oldest is probably the only kid at school without a cell phone. We have tried to keep them from drama and the world as much as possible because they will be there soon enough. I was not raised in church and have tried my best to have my family in church. I am not saying facebook is all bad but a time stealer is a time stealer whether it is floating from blog to blog, video games or chatting too long on the phone. If we prioritize our time we will have time for those things that are important. I was raised in a wealthy family and I have seen the best of both worlds. I have chosen not to give my children everything they want becasue children today are so materialistic. Once you compete with the Joneses it will always be a contest. That said... I have taught my children that their joy comes from the Lord not their friends. Sorry for rambling but I am very passionate about choices and even more passionate about them the older I get!! Have a GREAT day!! I enjoy your blog and your honesty.

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