A gaggle of 5th grade girls all sit around a lunch table obviously in a deep discussion. As I walk past them, one word makes my ears perk up and my step slow…Facebook. Immediately the teacher in me wants to interrupt, remind them that they are 10 and 11 which according to the law means they are not allowed to be on Facebook, and yet I don’t. I let them and their conversation be and instead head to my room and ponder the hypocrisy that is the age restriction on Facebook.
To be a legal member of Facebook you have to be 13 years old. The site makes this very clear, and yet we all know that the this rule is being broken on a daily basis as 4th and 5th graders sign up and start using the site. And while we can sit here and discuss how kids are just too young to handle to the responsibility of such a decision at that age, I think we should instead move on and discuss the real ramification of these sign ups: Kids that are not being taught how to use the site safely, because we choose to pretend they are not signing up. And yet, they are signing up, and they are using it to their full potential; the good, the bad, and the bullying. So rather than releasing educated students onto a social media site, we stick our heads in the sand, cover our ears and pretend it isn’t happening.
So as teachers we are once again put in a situation where we cannot teach kids skills that would be beneficial to them in the long run. Skills they for sure will need in middle school. Rather than confronting Facebook head on in the classroom and discussing how to use it, we ignore it, give stern warnings, and move on as if this will stop kids from signing up.
In America we seem to have a tendency in general to cover our ears and pretend kids are not doing things they shouldn’t, rather than actually teach them how to do it safely. Just look at how sex ed. and underage drinking is being treated. So as a society we would rather hold up the rule and say, “Well, they shouldn’t be doing this!” rather than face the facts and give them the proper education to handle it well. Again, this discussion isn’t meant to be about whether kids are too young to be on Facebook, much smarter people have written oodles about that. It is to bring up how we as a society should be giving kids an education in social media before they start to sign up rather than trying to patch things up later in life.
We fail these children when we pretend that they are not on Facebook at ten years old. We fail to teach them right, to show them how to behave and move around in a virtual social media site. How to deal with being friends with people or un-friending, how to post properly, what not to post, and how to treat others with respect. By being a restriction that is still so easily accessible to children, it becomes the ultimate must do. And perhaps Facebook isn’t what is so scary about this whole thing, but rather kids that have no idea how to use it properly. And that is for us to fix, if society would let us.