Our Stance on Facebook for Students
For better or worse, social networks – Facebook in particular – have become cultural currency for the vast majority of teens and young adults. And because popular culture always seems to follow a trickle down pattern, Facebook users are getting younger and younger. Facebook’s membership rules do not “allow” anyone under 13 to have a page, but they cannot truly enforce their policy:
“If you are under age 13, please do not attempt to register for Facebook or provide any personal information about yourself to us. If we learn that we have collected personal information from a child under age 13, we will delete that information as quickly as possible.”
So it’s left to parents to police. Unfortunately, the scope of Facebook and other social networking sites is such that it’s simply not possible to comprehensively supervise your child’s online life, which would include keeping track of perhaps hundreds of online friends’ sites as well. That says nothing about whether parents have any interest in doing so or the expertise to know what to look for.
What we've come to believe is that middle school students are simply too young to handle such an adult medium. In our many conversations with students over their Facebook use, a few things have become clear:
- Our children do not value privacy in the way adults do, nor do they have the ability yet to understand the impact of giving up their privacy.
- The concept of permanence is also one that is beyond the comprehension of most adolescents. College and jobs are far-off concepts to our students. While they expect to experience both, they can’t yet envision how a meaningless conversation or embarrassing pictures online now might come back to negatively impact their options for college and work later.
- Facebook is an adult world. We all know that it’s typical for adolescents to want to grow up immediately. Facebook provides this opportunity with little, if any, adult supervision. They can try out new personas and act adult without much or any interference. In the case of many 13-year-olds, that means crude language, unkind, unthinking comments, and sexual themes, sometimes all at once. Also know, that many lie about their age, and if they tell Facebook they are over 18 the site allows their pages to be searched on any common search engine.
- The kinds of interactions that take place on Facebook can very easily range into bullying. What happens in this virtual world is often much crueler than what happens in the real world. It is extremely difficult for adolescents to avoid being sucked into inappropriate interactions once they start. I say all this not to say that our kids are bad. While the desire to grow up as fast as possible is normal and developmentally appropriate, I’m sure that most parents would rather delay as long as possible the exposure to adult themes, posturing, and meanness that Facebook makes too easy. No doubt about it, social networks like Facebook are making parenting harder.
Elmwood Franklin School’s stance on Facebook:
- We do not believe that Facebook is appropriate for any children middle school age or younger. Although it is difficult to know exactly what age is suitable for joining Facebook, our considered opinion is that middle schoolers do not have the wherewithal to understand the consequences of their participation in this adult medium. At the very least, please do not allow or encourage your child to lie by agreeing to Facebook’s terms if they are not yet 13. I hope you agree that is not a good message for children.
- Monitoring Facebook – content and privacy settings – is the responsibility of each child’s parents. Although monitoring is a daunting and time consuming task, it is most effectively done by having your child’s login and password. Because privacy settings can be specific to each friend, friending your child through your own Facebook account is not sufficient.
- Should your child have a Facebook account – with or without your knowledge or permission – and the activity on that account leads to issues at school, EFS will intervene in keeping with school policies.