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Parent Talk: How Old is 'Old Enough' to Start a Facebook Page?

Each week Patch will discuss a topic relevant to parents and then invite community members to share their experiences and opinions on the topic. Weigh in on the comment section below.

Technology and the internet have produced a whole new set of complications for parents. Two decades ago parents didn't have to think about sexting, Internet predators and cyberbullying. Sure they still had to deal with these issues in a different context, but technology has given kids (and adults) immediate access to the world lurking outside of their immediate environment.

Parents can monitor the immediate environment, can make sure the home is safe and the kids are safe in it. But with the Internet and computer cameras and laptops and smart phones, the world--all its good and all its bad--are just a few clicks away.

In an article on cnet.com, Chris Matyszczyk writes about a middle school principal in New Jersey who sent a letter to parents imploring them to get their kids off of social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. He is quoted in the article, "Please do the following: sit down with your child (and they are just children still), and tell them that they are not allowed to be a member of any social-networking site. Today!"

The principal, Anthony Orsini, said in his letter to parents, "There is absolutely, positively no reason for any middle-school student to be a part of a social-networking site! None." He explained that he is just tired of all the meanness that social networking seems to encourage. He spoke of kids who might choose to start a Facebook group called "Dave is Ugly." "Once that pain happens, it's impossible to bring back," he told ABC News.

Then there are parents who believe that kids who earn the right to have an identity on social networking sites shouldn't be punished for all the bad that happens online. Others feel that as long as their kids are monitored while using the computer, that no harm can come from posting messages for close friends and family members to see.

Facebook and MySpace have a minimum age requirement of 13 to start an account. How old do you think kids should be before staring a social networking identity?

Amy M. Gilford April 15, 2011 at 01:27 PM
Go Principal Orsini! But not mentioned here is the absolute WASTE of time/brain cells that our kids are investing in social networking which keeps them from essentials: homework, housework, and actually TALKING to people not texting. Reading, writing, & communication skills are significantly diminished, not to mention attention span. I completely get the fact that utilizing these tools is a good way to reach teens with positive messaging, but as w/all good things, balance is the key. My older 2 got involved with FB in college - the original target market of FB - 4 years ago. By the end of college & as reality confronted them at graduation, their time on was/is minimal. My 3rd found it his JR year in HS and I'm still wishing I could have delayed it till his JR year in college! But all 3 kids must have us a friends or there's no account. And yes, I/we make regular visits to their pages & have had numerous discussions @ postings. # 4 is in Ele. school and won't be seeing her own page until at least 8th gr. When she does, since we all now know more about social networking, her time online & her activities will be tightly scheduled/monitored. All 3 college kids got their phones w/ their own $$ at HS grad. My Ele. daughter won't see her own phone until at least 9th gr., even if the times are a changin'! - the phones are actually causing more harm bec. of the picture messaging & internet access that are just one touch away. Those complicated phone plans are another issue. . .
Amy M. Gilford April 15, 2011 at 01:33 PM
Having said the above, we love connecting with the kids in college since they are so far away, and they can stay connected with friends and family back home. With the proper ground rules that still need to be dusted off occasionally, it is a valuable tool to stay connected. But how "connected" do middle and most high schoolers need to be when they see each other every day!?

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