Saturday, March 31, 2012

Firstborn and Facebook

As I posted earlier, Firstborn turned 13 last week. Some of the kids at our school lie about their age and get a Facebook account prior to age 13 (the required age). Not us! Being honest about her age online AND delaying that privilege to make it special were both important to CC and me. This week she got her account!

I did a little research prior to letting her sign up. I am sure there are differences of opinion among those reading this blog. Some would not consider letting their 13 year old have a Facebook account, and I am sure there are valid reasons for that. But we determined that it would be ok for her. First of all, I trust her modesty and discretion fully both in dress and talk. We all have issues we struggle with, but those are not hers.

Also, she is a TCK (Third Culture Kid)...meaning she is a mix of many cultures, without one she can really call her own. She has an American passport, was born in Singapore, but has had all her growing up years in Turkey. She's a mix. When we fly into America, we discuss the things to remember about the "foreign country" we are landing in. No, you can't take candy from strangers like you do in Turkey. Hugging and kissing on both cheeks people you've just met would not be appropriate, etc. It's a wonderful place that she wants to live in one day, but for now, it's just a place to visit her beloved sets of grandparents and cousins.

So, all that to say...Facebook is wonderful for a TCK. She's already been able to find childhood friends that have moved to far away countries. She's currently looking for a little friend that she shared the Lord with so many years ago. For her to be able to re-connect and stay connected, even when these kids fly in all different directions, will be very good.

And finally, basically, it's their world. This is the technological age she was born into. We want her to be connected, but just want it to be appropriately done.

Prior to setting up her account, we talked about what would be expected. I found this very helpful article:  What Parents Should Know and also this contract which we read through together: online contract
 It became very clear as we discussed it that we are very much on the same page about all of it. Still, I felt it would be good to not assume anything and just talk about it all. We also went to some Facebook pages together, ones that I had made a mental note of in the months leading up to this. For example: a profile picture of a girl in a bikini on the beach; conversations between two people posted on a public wall that would be more appropriate sent as private messages; subtle anger directed at an anonymous person when many would clearly see to whom it was directed; careless words like "sexy" tossed about on status updates; reminders that the choices she makes in her posts could affect her employment years later,  etc. It was very helpful to have it on the screen in front of her. She got the message.

And so last night, after CC and I came home from our date, I logged in and planned to send her a cute little note on her wall. CC and I were enjoying seeing what she had chosen to explain herself:
Religion? Evangelical Christian.
Inspirational People? Jesus Christ, her parents, her teachers.
Favorite Music? Jamie-Grace, Wynnona (my fault!), Carrie Underwood, Newsboys, TobyMac, Tenth Avenue North.
Books? The Wise Woman, Narnia, Tolkien, Love Comes Softly, Caps For Sale (because her dad read this to her class when she was little).
Movies? The Grace Card, Facing the Giants, Indiana Jones, Fireproof, UP.
Favorite tv? Dr. Quinn, Little House on the Prairie, Christy.

Yep, that's my girl.

So, I'm up for a healthy discussion on comments, even if you don't agree with me. What do you think about Facebook for a teen?


Angie said...

My teen daughter (13) has a facebook! It seems it's all the rage around here these days. I have her password though & have constant access to it. It's been helpful to me as I can keep up with things going on with kids at her school. I've based some of my decisions (if she can spend the .night with certain friends) based solely on their status update. I hope she enjoys her new FB. My only advice is to keep a close check on it!

Tara G. said...

I think you are a wise woman. As parents, we ought to be the ones to introduce and model appropriate behavior and encourage critical thinking while our children are in the home. We want our children to be successful in respect to being able to own their own faith and discern these things when they leave us, so we ought to teach them and guide them while we have the opportunity in our own space! Each parent knows his/her child best and what works for yours might not work for another (maybe even kids within the same home!). As parents, we ought to be praying for the discernment to know what to do with our own kids, and we can take away ideas from others that would work in our own situations(s). I really appreciate you sharing- I'm taking notes!

Anonymous said...

Now you know I'll comment, but just because you asked, that is all.
I saw ME's Facebook before you posted this and thought about you. One thing is we are all different. Our personalities play into the parents we are. We all have the same goals in mind, but go about it different ways.
Teens on Facebook . . . I did not allow that in my house. I did not want them anywhere near what I had seen on the internet so until they were past 21, they were not allowed on the internet without me sitting by their side. Not because I thought they would go to bad sites, but because I knew that innocent random clicks could pop up some horrible things and they are not mature enough to handle it as a teen. Plus, I knew they were human and there were temptations that could be avoided.
I was also not so naive' as to think that they would live in a sheltered environment all their life. It would be necessary for them to get out into the world, so I must help them learn to navigate the things I knew they would not be able to avoid. Help them learn to make good choices, in other words.
That is a fine line to walk as a parent. In my case, waiting until they were older and more mature was what I did and it has worked well.
None of my kids were allowed cell phones early either. In fact, Kathleen did not get hers until her 18th birthday. At that time, I felt like she was old enough to handle any of the pitfalls that might come with it. Not that she could not be tempted but she had done without it and there was a certain appreciation for it that helped her make good choices. She did not want to lose her long awaited phone privilege. Same thing with my other kids. My oldest son will soon be 18 and does not have his cell phone yet. I let him borrow mine when he goes away for ball games, but even that only became a privilege this past year. I have emphasized trust to my kids and the privileges that earns.
Like I said, we all are different but I recommend to anyone considering age and the maturity that only comes with age. I have not been sorry, and my kids aren't either. There is something about waiting when all your friends are doing it, that helps their maturity develop. My kids knew they would eventually get those privileges someday, just not yet.
Social networks are a toss up. Kathleen is 25 and does not have a Facebook page for the very reason she knows it would be a distraction she does not need and she also knows the ABA checks it. She just did not want to risk it but by the time she was old enough to be allowed on the internet, she was mature enough to make that decision for herself.
One more thing . . . . I was always of the opinion that you never let kids do anything just because everybody else is doing it. When I used to say to my dad, "Everybody is going such-n-such place," he would reply, "Everybody is not going to Heaven either, do you want to go with them there too?" :)
Good point in that, but at the same time I learned from my very wise mother that it is part of growing up to want to be like everybody and do what everybody is doing. You have to be careful of that. I could not go overboard the other way and forbid everything just because others were doing it. I had to learn to evaluate each situation and if it passed muster, let them participate, let them be the teenagers they were.
The internet is a wonderful tool used correctly and maturely. It is also extremely mis-used, as you know. I, personally, think it is too powerful for kids and teens. It is like letting them play with a grenade. Just because the pin in the grenade is not pulled, doesn't mean it is still not dangerous.
Always pray about these things Sara. I know I don't have to say that to you. Then always follow your heart/gut instinct on them even if it goes against the flow. I can tell you from experience, I have never been sorry I followed God/my instincts on these things and the kids haven't been either. There is an appropriate time and place for everything.

Anonymous said...

P. S. I was talking to Kathleen about your post and she mentioned that after sitting in a symposium yesterday on family law, specifically child abuse, how shocked she was that more parents don't say no to the internet. It was brought out the role the internet plays in the abuse of children and backed up what I was saying about the loaded grenade. By abuse, I don't mean parental abuse, but all kinds of things.

I thought you might be interested to hear the opinion of a young adult who herself was not allowed on the internet as a teen. Kathleen sees it now, loud and clear.

Anonymous said...

I need to make a correction. Kathleen reminded me that they were on the internet a little before 21. Karoline was 20 and Kathleen was 19 or 20. Just to be accurate. The principle is still the same.


angela30114 said...

I think you handled this PERFECTLY!!!! Give lessons to other parents here in the U.S., please!!

angela30114 said...

I think you handled this perfectly!!! This is the world the kids of today face. . . . . teach them to do it correctly.

Jennifer said...

I'm sure she is so excited and it sound like you have raised a level-headed young lady. It seems like so many parents do not keep up with the technology and you are right - our kids are born into this and we need to show them the correct way to use it. Keep an eye out on it for her sake and to see what her friends say. We just had a HUGE issue with a babysitter and her Twitter account. Clearly, her mother is not aware of the account because it's frightening the things that she tweets for the world to see.

Kelli said...

Especially after our year in the states when ALL her friends had Facebook, we enforced the same guideline that we wouldn't even talk about it until she's 13 because we are not going to lie. We still have 5 months to go before she's 13 and I"m still praying it through. Will appreciate continued feedback you have in the months to come!!

Anonymous said...

A little more friendly food for thought after reading the other comments:

Why are social networks a requirement for kids? Why is the internet a requirement? I can see if there is a purpose. I have sat by my children's side as they needed to do things for school on the internet. I understand that.

How much do kids see that is filth, or not age appropriate? Even if it is pointed out to them that what they saw or read was wrong, they still saw it and you cannot change that. That is the point.

I strongly disagree (and I am sure no one will agree with this) with educating our children in certain things even though, and just because, we are also giving them the godly side.

You should talk to Kathleen. Let her tell you the benefit of what I am saying. It did not make her a poor naive' adult, it made her a strong young adult.

She just told me a few minutes ago when discussing this that libraries in more than one state are working to get blockers taken off their public computers. Libraries! Do you see what I am saying? We do not realize the amount of stalking that goes on the internet. If we did, we wouldn't let one single child near the computer. She said criminals know how to get around those blockers. She still wonders why parents allow their children on the internet because it is so dangerous.

Kathleen remembers a verse of scripture she said G showed her several years ago in undergrad school where Paul said in Romans 16:19, " . . . . I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil."

Innocence is for us all, not just children. G did not mean for us to be indoctrinated in sin, to know it, but just not do it. What was it J said in John? That his disciples were in the world but not of the world. The Bible is true, whether it seems old-fashioned or not. There is nothing knew today as far as sin is concerned.

Innocence, especially in our children, is an asset - a huge asset and part of their protection.

Like I said, we all have the same goals but that doesn't mean we will do things the same. I was just offering comments regarding what we did in our family and the reasons we did it and the results of what we did. I am not sorry at all for the way my kids were raised and they are not deprived of technology in any way, shape or form.


Anonymous said...

Sara I love to read your blog and I think your decision on Facebook was well thought out and justified. To the other commenter, Melanie, yes the Internet has a lot of filth but there is also a lot of good and pertinent information too. From my perspective as a 31 year old mum I think the way Sara has approached this is to be admired. You cannot shelter your children from everything but you can try to protect them from most of it. Sara has made the right decision for her family and you for yours.

Rachel said...

My nieces and nephews had to wait until my sister decided that they were ready for facebook. My youngest one on is now almost 16. Love watching the family interaction between him and his older siblings who are away at college. They are all so close and trade teasing just like they were still at home. It's so nice to know what's going on in their lives when we're so far apart. It's given them the opportunity to get to know me as well. In our family, it's brought us closer. But we also trust them and my sister has their passwords and login info even though they are in college= protection. :)

Anonymous said...

So that no one misunderstands my remarks and thinks I was criticizing Sara, I wanted to clarify something.

My kids were in public school for high school. Daily they saw and heard things that were unbelievable. There were a couple of things I did to combat this. One was prayer and the other was making their home their sanctuary. This was as clean of an environment as I could humanly make it. You can say sheltered, if you wish, but they desperately needed a refuge, or shelter, from things God never intended anyone to see and hear, let alone children. They needed an example at home of a clean atmosphere, as much as it was in my power to give them. My husband agreed.

I am 52 years old and all four of my kids are grown/nearly grown. You can ask any of them about how refreshing it was to come home and not hear and see any of what they saw while at school and work. My husband has said this more than once over the years.

We can't help that we live in the world but the world does not have to live in our home. That is my opinion. In our home, we also chose not to have cable or satellite television. My husband and I made that decision one night when watching a perfectly clean show with our children but the commercials were awful with unappropriate language. Sara might remember Kathleen telling her about this when she was in her class.

Just to clarify and apologize if my remarks were misunderstood. Just like Sara has to make adjustments for third world culture kids, we also made adjustments for the culture our kids were being exposed to.

I know I come across pretty strong but this is a serious thing to me - the innocence of children. What I said above was simply sharing what we did in our home.


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