Earlier this week, my 11-year-old nephew called me and asked if I would sign him up for a Facebook account. I didn’t know what to say.
When I was 11, I wanted a Babysitter’s Club doll and a new sleeping bag for my sleepovers. Kids today want iPads, Androids and Facebook accounts.
Immediately, I told him he was too young and that Facebook only allows kids who are 13 and older to sign up. He countered, as I knew he would, that all the other kids in his sixth-grade class have Facebook profiles. I knew this wasn’t too big of an exaggeration considering a recent Consumer Reports survey found that as many as 7.5 million Facebook users are under 13, and two-thirds of those kids are under 10.
Stalling, I asked him what his mom said about it. Apparently, she told him she would sign him up, but she hasn’t gotten around to it yet. He was at my mom’s house when he called me, so I told him to ask her to do it. “She doesn’t know how.” He whined. I asked him to put his grandmother on the phone. My mom said she’s the one who told him to call me because she knows I can do it for him. “I can,” I told her, “but I won’t.” Evidently, my sister and my mom don’t see any problem with a preteen clicking around on Facebook and neither can understand why I don’t want him to be on the social media site.
In that instance, I felt like my dad. When I was in college, my dad would constantly call to check on me and remind me to be careful. In response, I told him to turn off Fox News Channel. This was The Natalie Holloway era and watching the news all the time led him to believe that college girls were getting kidnapped every single day.
He seemed so paranoid to me back then, but it makes me wonder if I’m being paranoid now. My refusal to sign my nephew up for Facebook comes from the countless stories that I’ve read about children being the target of sexual predators and cyber bullying online. A quick glance at the stories curated on CreepSquash.com is a sobering reminder of the sick people in this world. The internet can be a dangerous place for children. Allowing a child to roam the web is like allowing him to roam an unpoliced world unattended free to talk to whomever he comes across.
Children – and even some adults – don’t know a thing about privacy and will post everything on these social media sites. Photos, personal details, phone numbers, school, church, and hangouts all without using any privacy settings. This means that anyone trolling the net to find them can quickly and easily learn everything about them. My nephew could think he’s talking to a 12-year-old girl who lives around the corner when he’s actually talking to a 26-year-old pedophile. In addition, photos of scantily clad Facebook “models” are all over the site. What if one of those Superhead lookalikes ends up on his “suggested friends” list because they’re friends with one of his older male cousins? If he were to accept that friend request, who knows what he would see from there.