‘Can I have Facebook?’

‘Can I have Facebook?’ he says.

‘No.’

‘But why not?’

‘Because you’re not 13.’

‘But everyone else has it, it’s not FAIR.’

I know it’s not fair. He’s one of the youngest in his year and most of his friends are 13. I could relax the rules and let him have it. I know there are plenty of 12 year olds who have Facebook. Not to mention 11 year olds and 9 year olds. But not this 12 year old. He’s my son and I make the rules. Just as my mum used to say to me: ‘Just because everyone else is doing it, it doesn’t mean you have to do it’.

I’ve always tried to take a middle-ground with parenting. I remember myself the pressures of being his age (and I know they’ve got a whole lot worse since I was his age) – the need to fit in and be like everyone else, to not stand out from the crowd – unless you choose to and are brave enough. So my kids have never been the first to be allowed to do something/ go somewhere/ have something. But they won’t be the last either.

There are other rules I’m willing to relax. They like watching comedies on Netlflix. Some of them are 15. But I’ve seen these programmes before and I know what they content is and I know it’s not too bad. They are watching these programmes in the lounge, surrounded by their families. There might be a slightly rude joke, but nobody can hurt them.

But Facebook is different. It’s solitary. People can hurt him. And once that can of worms is open, it will be difficult to close it. I know that teenagers think it’s obligatory to be Facebook friends with pretty much everyone in the school, whether they know them or like them or not. Not all of those people will be nice. How very convenient if you’re not very nice to have a means by which to be not very nice directly to a person 24 hours a day. Call me old-fashioned, call me mean, call me unfair. I don’t want that person to be my son. Not when he’s 13 and not when he’s 12.

I realise that when he’s 13 I can’t stop him from joining Facebook or Twitter or whatever else has been invented since I last checked. But I can stop him while he’s still 12. I can protect him for that little bit longer, and I will.

And when he finally turns 13 in a few weeks, he thinks his first Facebook friend will be his best friend who moved to the seaside. But it won’t. It’ll be me.

Author: Sarah Mummy

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29 Comments

  1. I am dreading this. My oldest is ten and at the moment I am being badgered about email. And I’m getting the same induced guilt trip, with ‘everyone else has one’. The problem with these things is that we have nothing to compare it with because none of it was around when we were young. So as with most things, where we can think back to what we were allowed to do and at what age, we’ve no markers when it comes to social media etc.

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    • We certainly don’t! My son doesn’t have email either and I need to get him set up with it, but I don’t know how to start! I think I’m probably more savvy than most parents about social networking, but I’m still nervous about what’s right and safe for him.

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  2. It’s a tough one isn’t it. We let Kian have it earlier than 13 but purely because he wanted to keep in touch with his big brother. In fairness he never uses it for anything other than playing games with his friends.
    With the other two I have seen fall outs on there and I am their Facebook friend to monitor what’s going on – there have been times when I have had to ask them to delete a comment, they are teens after all and wear their heart on their sleeve and don’t think before they speak.
    Thankfully they’ve come through remarkably unscathed by it all but I know for others it can be traumatic

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    • Thanks, Kara. Reassuring to know that Kian doesn’t use it much. What you say about your older kids reassures me that I’m not being over-dramatic in trying to delay Facebook as long as possible for them.

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  3. I totally understand why you are sticking to your guns on this one. I agree, Facebook is a minefield that even adults can manipulate to create problems for others. I’ve been on the end of this myself, after Abi died I had hundreds of friend requests. Mostly people wanting to frankly get some gossip, not people I knew.
    However, I’ve also not been as strong as you in not letting my children have it. Yes, it has caused a few problems but in the main it’s actually been beneficial to them.
    I realize my circumstances are unique.
    Abi begged me for Facebook since she was 11. I was like you. Not till she’s 13; however, as soon as she started secondary school it became harder to enforce. I realized she could quite easily set up her own account without me knowing, and while I trusted her, I didn’t want to risk leaving her vulnerable in cyber space. So I agreed in the January. As you know she died in the February. In that short time she wrote some posts that are so special to us now. Yes we could have lived without it but she wasn’t on it really long enough to get into bother.
    I gave my other daughter access after Abi died. She was 10.
    (I know!)
    Much of Abi’s story was on facebook. My daughter suffers from anxiety and finds it hard to talk. But she can write. She used facebook to write some beautiful messages to her dead sister. OK, she could have used a diary, but when ‘everyone’ else was using it as a tool to share memories of Abi it seemed unfair to hide that from her. I would say, in the main, facebook has really helped her anxiety. She is friends with children she doesn’t know in person but who were Abi’s friends, so when she starts secondary school she won’t feel as worried. She also loves horses and has a group of horsey friends on there. At first we did have problems and I monitored it closely. I’ve had to intervene a few times with blocking people. Bullies are online as much as they are in school. But that’s fairly easy to manage. The worst bit is trying to stop her seeing things she shouldn’t and in the early days I had to go and unlike lots of pages that she’d liked. I blame facebook for this. They should put something in place to protect younger users, as there are very young users (I was amazed how many children in our primary school had it!) I’m afraid children share horrible images and videos and it’s so hard to police that, but I tried my best. We had many frank discussions about cyber bullying and how the web shows nasty things too. But after a year she has settled and seems to literally talk ponies all the time! She can spend too long on it, and we’ve had to remove it as a form of punishment before, but generally I’m glad for how it has helped her.
    As I said, my situation is unique but even without Abi’s death, I think facebook is too much part of life now and that if I’m using it and other family members then it’s almost unfair not to let my children. I also think it depends on the maturity of the child. If you trust them to come to you if they were worried about something then they should be OK. It’s the parents who let their very young children on it and then leave them to it that cause most problems. You can have access to his account and see what he is up to. I expect he’ll get bored after the initial thrill. Most boys who knew Abi can’t be bothered to use it much. I am like you, I sometimes wish the web was never invented as it robs our children of their youth, but it’s here and I’d rather help my child find a way to use it. It’s a big step so whenever you decide he can have it, good luck! x

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    • Thanks very much for this Kelly, really appreciate you sharing so much. I can’t believe you had friend requests from strangers after Abi died! I had never heard of Edspire until Matilda Mae died and even though I was desperately sad to read her story I was very aware that I didn’t want to ‘jump on the bandwagon’ when she lost her baby. It didn’t seem right to me. Maybe I was wrong, who knows?
      As you say, your situation is unique and I also think Facebook is a bigger deal for girls – there are more of them want it and more of them use it. I’m glad it has been such a help to your younger daughter. I also understand your reasoning for setting it up for Abi rather than risk her doing it herself without your blessing. Like you, I trust my son, but there is always a tiny bit of uncertainty, just because of his age. As he is a boy of few words, I’m not sure that he would come to me or my husband if there was a problem on Facebook, so I need to be sure I’m aware of what’s happening myself. x

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  4. My 11 year old and I have had the same conversation about Facebook again and again….I’ve told her she can have it when she is 13 and not until then! I know she thinks I’m being so mean to her but I have put my foot down….

    Facebook is designed for adults not for children…..I don’t want her seeing or reading something she shouldn’t….While I can monitor the what she posts I cannot monitor what other people are posting…..

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    • Exactly, Kim! There are some not nice things on there and teenagers can deliberately post stuff to shock. We don’t want to expose our children to that.
      I think girls probably put more pressure on than boys!

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  5. I agree with you on this one! I’m already having this fear and Munch is only 2! I did a online safety post recently about social media with kids and little things like accessing the pc only from the living room (in full view) of others was a recommendation. But yes, not a fan for 24/7 access to people who might not like you. Might be an idea to formulate a plan now.

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    • I think you’re right! Amazing how many parents of toddlers have told me they’re already worrying!

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  6. Completely agree with this post. I will be doing all manners of monitoring and spying on z when it comes to social media. There are ways you can just remotely watch what they do, all through your normal Windows. My hubby does it for all his nieces and nephews so knows exactly what they are looking at. It works really well. Although of course they don’t like it very much.

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    • I remember reading about your husband and his internet spying on the nieces and nephews before. It sounds fab. I need to look into it and find out more. I’ve only got a few weeks to get myself prepared!

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      • Thanks very much, Dawn. I will look into that. So sorry to hear what you went through with your son, but grateful to you for sharing your experiences with me so I can be prepared. Glad things are improving for your son now. x

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  7. I remember when my younger sister asked to have a Facebook account before she was 13. My Auntie and Uncle relented and let her have one but purely because she has 5 older sisters and a brother, all of whom have Facebook accounts and only under the condition that we were all friends with her before she added other friends. I think it also helped that she was one of the last of her friends to get one, (despite having an October birthday and therefore being one of the oldest) and that most of us lived a long way from her so like Kara said, she wanted it to keep in touch with us, especially when I and another sister of hers had our children.

    All that said, in your situation, I would definitely stick to my guns; I already worry what the future holds for Harry! x

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    • Sounds like your aunt and uncle were very sensible in that situation and that it was perfectly appropriate for your sister to have Facebook earlier.
      Who knows what sort of social media there will be by the time Harry is old enough to use it? It is definitely a worry. x

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  8. One of the hardest things I find with this whole social media debate is the fact that I am on social media so much and I know I don’t set the best example. But having said that, I tell mine often that it is part of blogging and I am old and responsible enough to manage it all safely. I am shocked by how many younger kids have Facebook, I really can’t see the point. I agree with you though that it is a huge can of worms and one that should only opened when needed and then monitored very carefully.

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    • That’s exactly what I say to my kids. If it wasn’t for social media they wouldn’t have got their free trip to Warner Bros Studios and they table tennis table!
      I will have to open the can of worms in a few weeks, so no doubt I will be reporting back when I do! He will most definitely be monitored.

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  9. My eldest 2 wanted it when they were 11/10 because everyone else did, I said you have to wait until your 13 now that they’re 14/12 neither is that bothered. When your son does sign up, why not limit the amount of friends he has to start with, say 30 including you & family members, see how he gets on & slowly increase his numbers, that way he’s not thrown in the deep end!
    He’s lucky that he has a parent who’s conversant in the etiquettes of social media, remind him that if he sees a status/comment he doesn’t like to walk away & chill out before responding! Good Luck!

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    • Good idea about limiting the number of friends, thanks, Ellen! I’m pleased that I know a fair amount about social media myself, because my husband wouldn’t have the first idea. Interesting that now your child is 14 that they’re not bothered, I wondered if it was the forbidden fruit he was interested in.

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  10. I’m with you on this one, it’s difficult though isn’t it? My oldest isn’t quite 8 yet, so we’ve not hit this yet, but it will come. Although I hope that being fairly tech savvy myself, and my husband even more so, we can keep a good eye on it all when it comes. It’s a tricky balance, I would rather he came to me and we set it up than risk him doing it himself anyway, but I don’t want it to all happen too soon. There’s time enough for all that comes along with social media! Having said that, like you my kids might not be the first to get things, but they also won’t be the last.

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    • You’re lucky to have a savvy husband too, Sara. Mine doesn’t know the first thing about social media, so it’s all down to me! I think being the last to do something is just as harmful as being first – as you can get bullied for not being part of the crowd. You can’t win, really!

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  11. It is hard isn’t it. I did allow my youngest to get a FB account when he was 10 but only because we were emigrating and we all wanted to keep in touch with our friends and family back in England. The deal was that he was not only friends with me but I knew his password so that i could check his account. He also wasn’t allowed to accept friend requests from people I didn’t know and then once he became Fb friends with his grandma, my sister, and his aunts, uncles and cousins I was pretty confident that he wouldn’t be able to get up to much mischief without the entire family knowing. I think we need to balance the need to protect our kids with the need to trust them to be careful and learn to be responsible online.

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    • I think in your situation it’s perfectly understandable you let him get it at a young age, Lou. And you’re right, with that many family members watching him he couldn’t get into a lot of a trouble!

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  12. As you know from our conversation on Twitter my 12 year old son doesn’t have a Facebook Account, nor a mobile phone, and at the moment he’s OK with that. That may all change when he hits 13 and we will need to decide together what to do then. For me I will try and dissuade him, after all it’s my computer, my house, he is my child and quite frankly I can think of a whole raft of better things he could be doing with his time. However if he can give mature reasons for wanting to go on I may well relent. “Because all my friends are there” is NOT, IMHO a good enough reason. As others have said, the Internet can be a dangerous place full of things that we would all much rather protect our young children from. It is also a great place and I do not want to cut him off from all that is good about it. I do know that when he finally does get an account that I will initially monitor it and if he argues against this he may well find his account closed. Call me strict – yes maybe I am. But I know my son and I know he is very young in many ways and very naive. We hold our children’s hands when they first cross the road and as they get older we gradually let them cross without our hands and finally on their own. I think the same rules are best applied to when our children first venture into Facebook.

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    • Totally agree with you on that, Rosie! The deal with my son will definitely be that I’m allowed unlimited access at the start and we’ll take it from there. I would still rather he didn’t get it at 13, but don’t think I can stop him. I suspect he’ll get bored pretty quickly, because he’s actually not interested in writing in any form. I suspect sharing stuff on Facebook will become a hassle for him.

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      • Not sure if mine will get bored of it or not. He loves computer games and “chats” to other players but Facebook is not a game. We will see and I shall report back!

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  13. Such a tough one… looks like you’ve had some great advice though xx I am dreading this stuff! xx

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    • I certainly have, thanks! Who knows what will be around by the time you have to encounter it all? x

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  14. This is all a worry for me too. Mine is 10 and did go through a phase of asking for FB. I know what I see on there, pictures get linked that I woudn’t want her to see. The Internet is a scary place. I suppose it is all about careful monitoring, as a parent. xxx

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