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facebook lite for kids – about time?

If like me you have an under 13 year old in the house who has a mobile phone and email account, you might just find yourself being pestered to open up a facebook account. But it’s a tricky call. Should I allow her to have an account, do I set it up and have log in details, do I link her account to mine? What are the dangers and also the positives that I need to think about?

The facebook community rules state that accounts are for the over 13 year old but I know lots of kids with accounts who have obviously managed to skirt around the sign up issue. I’d prefer to think that parents had set these accounts up for their children, but what if they haven’t? Internet safety is a big issue, especially as location based services become more popular – how would you know if your child is checking in on foursquare and or updating their location on facebook if you’ve no idea they’re using either of these social networking tools? Facebook has a Safety page which is well worth checking out.

It’s important for us to understand the implications of social networking for young children and weigh up the pros and cons of them being involved. The media is rife with stories about cyber bullying and stalking and worse, children who have been targeted by adults claiming to be children and a lot worse.

With all these things in mind, it still doesn’t stop pester power or in fact the inevitability that children are pretty resourceful when they want something.

Surely it would make sense for facebook to open up accounts so that children can have, literally, child accounts set up by parents. I’m not saying I want to keep an eye on everything my child does, or she in fact me, but when it comes to parental control on the internet, it seems to be the answer. Its a fact of life that children want to feel included and peer pressure to join facebook is not just about wanting to be cool, it’s also a good way to keep in touch over the holidays and also when changing schools.

What would facebook lite look like?
A walled garden is the answer. Just as hotmail allows you to add approved senders, parents should be given this option for facebook. Friend requests should be filtered and sent to parents as well as the child so they can be approved. It would be easy to offer administration rights to a parent which are already used for fan pages.

I wonder how many children are using facebook and how many parents don’t have an account, or even know how to use it. While it’s quirky to remain luddite and out of touch, children are native internet users and keeping in step with internet trends is now part of our parental duties. That said, I’m never going to be caught whiling away a few spare hours on Bin Weevils or Club Penguin.

If you are a savvy social networker, there’s a flip side to this. I’m not sure I want to give my child access to my online world via facebook – I don’t let her read my email but she does read my twitter and texts. She is not in the least bit interested in Linkedin (I’d be worried if she was!) but facebook is a much deeper dive into our lives because of old photos and old friends and things I would not necessarily want my daughter to see.

I’m wondering if ‘facebook lite’ is the answer for the under 13s who are keen to be part of this world and for parents who want to play caretaker but not interfere. And for now, I’ll just have to keep mulling this one over.

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5 Comments to “facebook lite for kids – about time?”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by jowildman and nixdminx eva keogan, Ian Douthwaite. Ian Douthwaite said: RT @nixdminx: New blog post: facebook lite for kids – about time? is it realistic to keep your kids off facebook un … [...]

  2. Nataliya says:

    Hi Eva, I quite agree with you on the safety challenges we as parents are facing. There was a post I read recently about how some kids use their Facebook accounts: deleting the account and re-activating it every time they want to connect to their friends. The reason they say is that there is “too much drama” at school, on the street, etc, anyway, so they want to keep their “wall” clear so nobody would be able to mess around while they are offline and do not have control on it. Interesting approach, where kids are self-controlling their avatars, but not sure if that’s the majority. Regarding games such as Bin Weevils, we need to watch out the way such online space explores our kids’ attention via online ads in forms of treasure hunts, competitions, etc. It’s scary.

  3. I thorny subject for anyone with children of ‘that’ age! Amy’s nearly 11 but she isn’t interested in networking sites yet. I’m not sure I agree with children under 16 being on these sites to be honest, but I am a little old-fashioned. I guess they could be made safe, but it would take a lot of monitoring by the parents, and unfortunately, they’re not all like you and me.

    CJ xx

  4. [...] few years ago, I suggested Facebook Lite for kids, an idea which would maybe help parents let their children onto the social networking site [...]

  5. [...] considered and no finger pointing or scape goating.   Three years ago I wrote this post about Facebook Lite for kids - it’s a concept for amnesty and lowering the age of the network, and others I might say, so [...]

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