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Monday, October 3, 2011

Should Facebook Have an "R" Rating???

Motion Picture Association of America
Uses R-Rating to Notify About Mature Content
I'm a parent of two daughters ages 7 and 10 respectively. Neither of them has a Facebook page - and they won't for several years.

Interestingly, Facebook itself has a policy that requires anybody with a FB page to agree that they are at least 13 years old.

Ironically, I know neighbors and colleagues whose children are younger than 10 and have personal pages on the world's largest social media site - in direct violation of Facebook's own policy. Those parents claim it's a harmless diversion that they actively monitor to keep track of what their kids are doing. While that may or may not be the case, I still think 13 is too young for a child to have their own FB page.

Regardless of how vigilant a parent might be, there is still no parental control mechanism that FB offers and there's no "sanitized" version of Facebook that I could comfortably allow my kids to engage. On a daily basis, content gets pushed onto newsfeeds of my "friends" - and most of those people aren't intending to share that information with minors, so there's usually no attempt at screening or moderating.

In fact, over the past 48 hours on the collective newsfeed of my 1,200+ friends I've seen the following:
  • Multiple instances of the f-bomb and other swearing;
  • Photos of people who were drunk;
  • Sexually suggestive images;
  • News stories and corresponding imagery that were excessively violent. 
As a parent, I would never intentionally expose my children to any of that type of content. In fact, if most of the content I referenced above was in a movie - that movie would be "R" rated.

To me, that's "adult" content and let's remember that in this country, you must be at least 18 years of age to be legally considered an adult.

My kids couldn't handle that and they shouldn't have to. To make the point a different way, when we travel on a trip, the suitcases that my wife and I carry are much to big and heavy for a child to carry. In the exact same way, much of the FB content is simply too much for a child to healthfully process and understand.

Furthermore, I haven't even addressed the risk of abduction that a minor might face if they have a social media presence where they nonchalantly discuss their whereabouts or schedule - as far as my kids are concerned, I only see risk and downside associated with being online.

Perhaps I'm being overly protective, but when it comes to my children I'd rather take the risk that they think I'm being mean and keep them off Facebook - than needlessly risk their innocence or safety.

Question: How old or mature should a child be to have a Facebook page and why do you think that?

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