Social networking under age 13: Some ed experts’ views
After a UK report finding that a quarter of 8-to-12-year-old British Net users are on Facebook and a US principal calls for a Facebook ban for middle schoolers (see below), I thought you’d appreciate some perspective from some top US educators and risk-prevention specialists….
“1. What used to be activity generally done by older students is moving farther and farther down the age groups…
“2. In the meantime, ‘cyberbullying,’ as we are generally using the term, is moving up into the adult group, and…
“3. The teen/young adult groups are going deeper and deeper underground (Formspring-type sites) – e.g., ‘my Facebook is shiny and spotless; my nastiness is harder to find’).”
Donlin’s last point about using different sites for different purposes or behaviors is not particularly new but worth highlighting for parents, educators, and healthcare professionals inclined to focus heavily on a handful of sites as “the problem.” It’s also important to note, I feel, that Donlin is not suggesting that “nastiness” is in any way typical, just that youth are making it less public.
“Nowadays every school we visit has 4th or 5th graders with a Facebook account, and we have heard through the ‘kids grapevine’ that there are 3rd graders with accounts. Keep in mind that Facebook itself began as a site for people 18 and older. Two years later, they moved their minimum age requirement to 16, and then two years thereafter to 13.”
“I’m also a little cautious about making correlations between social networking and deviant behavior. I don’t believe there is any evidence to support that social networking = bad choices, bad behavior, etc. I do believe that mobile devices and media have created an opportunity for impulsive behavior to have greater consequences.
“I also hear about behavior from 7th and 8th graders that, when I was a kid (forgive me for that), did not really start happening until 11th, 12th, and beyond.
“I like to encourage adults (myself included) to really think about how the paradigm of social interaction has changed with new mobile devices and online tools (such as Facebook, etc). My experience with kids has led me to believe that these forms of communication are every bit as valid as the old way of doings things (face-to-face, phone calls…).
“Rather than more restrictions, I encourage moving in the direction of increasing the ability/accessibility for adults in education to guide students in the use of these new tools” (I wholeheartedly agree – see “School & social media”).
Readers, your views would be most welcome too! Please comment, if you’d like – via anne[at]netfamilynews.org or in our forum at ConnectSafely.
- “Technology & the Adolescent: Paring Modern Media and Technology with Mental Health Practice,” by Donnel Nunes (quoted above), Brian Raley (Temple U.), Kavita Rao (U. of Hawaii), Cameo Borntrager (Temple U.), Kandis Rohner (HI Dept. of Education), and Sujan Shrestha (Towson U.)
- “Lots of underage social networkers” linking to a recent study in the UK on the subject
- “Parenting & the digital drama overload”