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Monday, June 27, 2011

Is it Really Appropriate for your 9-year Old to be on Twitter and Facebook? Mark Zuckerberg and Others Think So!

This question really has me thinking about how fast our technology focused culture has so drastically evolved in just the past two to three years.  The social media aspect of our lives, both in our personal relationships and in the business environment, is becoming all encompassing and will get multiplied a hundred times over in the next five to seven years.  Our relationship building skills have become so reliant on digital connections, that we feel lost when there is not some form of mobile communication (cell phone, tablet, laptop, etc.) on our person twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.  We want everything here and now and won’t wait around for information to be fed to us, in what has been described as our new ADD society.  From online dating to Skype meetings to purchasing an engagement ring on Blue Nile we have morphed into a supremely wired universe with no end in sight. 

And this focus on the digital world is not just inherent in the adult (and young adult) population.  What is now happening from even the biggest and baddest of the social media juggernauts, the all mighty Facebook, is the starting up of discussions regarding giving social media access to those in the tweener segment (9-12 year olds).  I’m sure some if not many adults (including myself) are probably screaming “Hell NO” to this possibility, especially given the rash of predators being identified across the web sphere (does the name Representative Anthony Weiner come to mind, or maybe “To Catch a Predator” on CNBC a few years back).  Why in the world would internet companies even fathom the idea of giving our youth below the age of thirteen any type of availability to the breeding grounds of such a perverse part of our sometimes sick society?  It really seems like a ludicrous idea given how we try our hardest to protect our youngsters from the evils that lurk in front of us on the computer screens.

However, it begs the question: “If we don’t teach our kids how to survive in the digital landscape, then how will they be able to learn the necessary relationship building skills that they will need in the future?”  And kids are feeding on this need by taking action themselves to gain this education.  The numbers really don’t lie, as Consumer Reports states: over 7.5 million Facebook users are under the age of 13, with 5 million of those being 10 years old or younger (Time magazine).  And because of this new consumer group popping up recently, companies are creating focused strategies to profit from this growing segment of the internet realm.  REALLY?!!  Yes, and to name a few that I’ve never heard of before but will probably be well known soon are:  Togetherville, imbee, Everloop and WhatsWhat.me in addition to the more mainstream Twitter and Facebook. 

These companies claim that there are serious safeguards against and background checks on those signing up for their websites, including ways to prevent the predators from gaining access to their young customer population.  However, as an example of where Facebook lacks in this security, their 13-year old minimum requirement for gaining access can be bypassed by simply putting in a fake age on their application screen.  What kind of security is that?!  Nevertheless, everyone in our country is out there to make a grand buck for themselves so for the time being there really is no way to stop these entrepreneurial outfits to come out of the woodworks and lend our children another form of expression with others, but having exposure to a whole world of predatorial maniacs in the process.  As this happens, it is up to us to guide our kids in how to navigate this place of social communication and how to spot the masked evildoers who are only there because of dangerously misplaced motivations.

When will this technology revolution ever stop?!  I really do miss face to face conversations which seem very archaic these days.  So High School!!   


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