‘Can I have Facebook?’ he says.
‘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.