by Alice Bradley, REDBOOK
While visiting the Today show, Michelle Obama told Matt Lauer that she doesn't allow her kids on Facebook. Just when I thought I couldn't love her any more, she goes and says this. Oh, Michelle. Your parenting is as spot-on as your ability to accessorize.
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I am highly resistant to the idea of my kid on any kind of social network. Right now Henry has zero interest in Facebook, but he is ITCHING to register on Lego.com so he can voice his opinions on the latest Harry Potter set or how the Lego figures should all come with several different heads so he can change their expressions. Fortunately, you can only register to comment on their products if you're thirteen or older. Yesterday he found some kind of a community aspect on the site, and asked if he could join that. I reminded him of the thirteen-and-up rule, having no idea if it applied to this part of Lego.com, but hoping that it did. Because if anything worries me more than the danger of Henry chatting with strange adults online, it's Henry chatting with Lego-obsessed adults online.
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Having said that, I am totally on board with the argument that the concept of "Stranger Danger" is overblown. Children are far more likely to be harmed by a family member or friend. And it's not like I'm unfamiliar with the Internet. I'm not like my mom, who comes to my house and demands, "Get my Internet on your computer." (She means hotmail.com, by the way. I have tried to explain that she doesn't have a separate Internet from the rest of us, to no avail.)
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But even if the risks are minimal, social networking just seems completely unnecessary, at least at this stage in his childhood. His friends aren't online. They're still figuring out how to call each other on the phone. So when they do begin joining Facebook, will we let Henry join them? Maybe. Eventually. But not soon.
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According to Lenore Skenazy, author of the blog Free Range Kids, the dangers inherent in Facebook aren't, by and large, predators, but how kids manage their public image. She writes:
"When we were young, the stupid things we did lived on maybe in our diaries. Maybe we'd hear about them again at reunions. But this generation's stupidities do not die, they pixelate. Post a picture of yourself holding a beer - or anatomical part - and even if you think it is never going to go beyond the friend or two you sent it to, you just never know."
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My son, of course, isn't old enough to even want to drink beer, but I've seen him after a couple of cans of Sprite, and in that sugar-crazed rush, who knows what he might post?
I haven't even touched on the subject of bullying online. Just the idea makes me want to move us all to a nice cabin in the woods with absolutely no wi-fi access. Or maybe a nice yurt in Mongolia. I bet you can't get online in a yurt, and even if you could, you know sooner or later your laptop would get stepped on by a yak.
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