Here's my situation: my 8-year old daughter has a Facebook page. I didn't tell her she could nor did I ask her if she wanted one. She came home from a friend's house today with one. She has an email account and safely surfs the Internet already on sites approved and monitored by her mom and me. So, I didn't think twice about her having a FB page.
Later, I updated my status to read "Jason is feeling old because his 8-year old is on FB." To which an onslaught of comments and debate amongst my friends began. Here's just a sampling:
You are a fool if you allowed that! a straight up fool! no parent allows their young kids to be on fb or myspace! my son is 10 and more street savvy than leah, and even he isn't allowed to be sites like this.
Sorry folks, it was the "kids" who introduced the adults to facebook. Kids - even at 8 years old - are smarter than most of us give them credit for. I say let her explore with some limits about who she friends.
Start her out on something other than fb....Who is she going to talk to?
My response to some of these was simple:
Trust... with strict limitations and settings. We'll give her a shot and see how she handles a little responsibility. Why not introduce her to the big bad Internet now with parental supervision and by the time she's off on her own she won't be naive enough to get taken by a con artist or worse.
You're exactly right-- they grow up extremely fast-- which is why I want mine to be prepared for what comes at them. I've always believed I have to teach them just about everything-- including sex-- by about 13-- because that's when anything can start happening. These kids have to be ready for boys, pregnancy, bullies, school violence (shootings), kidnappers, predators, and most scary of all-- what I can't think of. That's a lot of preparation. So, I don't think 8 (almost 9) is all that early with the Internet.
Since this I went in and made sure all her settings were what I wanted-- no personal info available to anyone who was not a friend and unable to be found on FB searches unless it was done by a friend. I also had to delete myself as her friend because I didn't want her to be able to read everything on my page from my friends. So, what I've boiled this down to is a glorified chat room with her best friends. She already chats with her friends as it is. As time goes on and she hasn't broken any of the rules we've set for her, she can expand on that to have a wider array of friends.
If she let's me down, she let's me down and then I delete the account. But to quote John Lithgow in Footloose, if we don't start trusting our children how will they ever become trustworthy?