The Asssociated Press has an article today on the First Lady’s position on Facebook for her family (excluding her husband):
WASHINGTON – Michelle Obama says her daughters aren’t on Facebook, and that’s the way she likes it.
The first lady says her girls, Sasha, 9, and Malia, 12, have certain restrictions that other children don’t have because of Secret Service security issues. But she also said during an interview on NBC’s "Today Show" on Wednesday that she’s "not a big fan of young kids having Facebook."
Even if the girls weren’t living in the White House, Mrs. Obama says Facebook is "not something they need." Maybe when they get older, she added.
All these kids today, they love Facebook. But on the other hand, being so publically available already makes them a target, and therefore the first family has imposed upon them certain security restrictions that other people do not face.
But note Mrs. Obama’s statement – “maybe when they get older.” Does this mean that after they leave the White House, after Obama’s second term (because we all know that no matter who the Republicans field in 2012, they won’t win – sorry my right leaning friends, that’s the reality) that they will be allowed? By that time their kids would be 15 and 18. This is still young enough to enjoy all the benefits of having a Facebook account like Farmville, Mafia Wars and not sending email but instead using Facebook’s messaging platform.
It calls into question whether or not kids 12 and under should even have Facebook accounts. People these days probably voluntarily give up too much information about themselves online. Kids are just not equipped to handle the difficult-to-foresee implications of their actions. Thus, should we be advising parents that kids should not have social networking accounts until they reach a certain age? To be certain, we shouldn’t legislate it, but we might want to advise it just like how we advise kids to brush their teeth every day to prevent cavities.
When I do things, I tend to error on the side of caution until I completely understand the consequences of my decision (wherein I will not do something if I am unsure about something – except when I invested in real estate which was a huge mistake). Do we fully understand the consequences of social networking today? I don’t think we do. Given that kids don’t quite get why their actions can be risky, we might want to advise them to hold off on doing things that are potentially risky until we do understand them better.