On Trust and Children in Social Networks

So I’m at my 12 year old daughter’s softball game last Friday night and as the game is concluding I reach for my cellphone and I see a text from my wife it reads:

Your daughter is on Facebook”?

I text back

She better not be”.

As I’m waiting for her to emerge from the dugout, I decide to call my wife who is in Ohio for the weekend for my nephew’s first communion. The first words out of her mouth are that her sister Terry tried to “Friend” my daughter on Facebook. I was shocked and stunned. But there were some legit reasons why. Here’s 4 of them.

1) Not 2 weeks prior to this happening, I was on television and in front of a live audience, as well as members of the school board, explaining why I did not see the point in children (freshman to sophomores on down) using Facebook, let alone a social network at all. They’re too young.

2) I had explained to those that attended, how important it was to monitor your childrens online activities.

3) I had outlined how important it was, to explain the implications of privacy and what can happen when you are “out” there to your children.

4) My daughter saw the event on television

Apparently I suck at drinking my own koolaid. I did not do a good enough job of monitoring my child’s online activities. I took for granted that my straight A’s student, great athlete, daughter would never violate the trust that I thought we had. She had asked previously if she could get a Facebook account and I said no and I explained why.

Here’s the cautionary tale.

  • First off, I felt completely betrayed by my daughter,
  • Facebook has no idea of the challenges that parents face.
  • Even “good” kids will do what their ‘friends” tell them to do and what their parents tell them not to.
  • My daughter knew she wasn’t supposed to be on, but her friends told her to set up an account.
  • As smart as my daughter thinks she is, and yes she is,  she still set the account up wrong, but luckily she had not put “that much” info out there.
  • There were dozens of other “friends” waiting for her to “friend” them back. Dozens.
  • Those other “friends”, were no older than 13, but the majority were younger than 13. That means that they worked around the so-called age limit to join Facebook.
  • Children have no clue what privacy settings are and how to set them up on Facebook.

So what’s my point? I supposedly was monitoring my daughter’s online activities. I live, eat, breath and sleep this social media stuff, and yet she did it while my wife and I were down the street trying to hit tennis balls.

The parents of the others that I saw on there? Chances are, they do not live, eat and breathe social media. I bet if I were to at least look at the privacy settings of those accounts, 90% of them would be wide open. That’s a problem. One of many.

As social networks and mobile phones continue to evolve, and as the age of innocence continues to evaporate, and entry into owning a phone continues to be lowered-issues about content, behavior, ignorance, and privacy on social networks are going to continue to escalate and magnify. Take it from me, or maybe not…