On Monday I came across an article from the International Business Times. Not necessarily a new topic, Zuckerberg and Facebook usage but what got me was the tenor of the article. Let me give you a recap (though you should go read the article yourself it was good).
The article focused on how the famous CEO felt that children younger and younger would become increasingly more visible on Facebook. The age limit on Facebook currently is 13 and Zuckerberg was quoted in the article, “In the future, software and technology will enable people to learn a lot from their fellow students,” a fair point I think. I don’t know why, maybe my coffee was extra bitter that morning, but reading through this got me a little miffed. The writer (whose name I couldn’t find) really seemed to be antagonistic to Zuckerberg and Facebook. Don’t get me wrong I don’t think Facebook is so fantastic that it doesn’t make poor decision, I mean they are a company so they do have a goal to make a profit. I think privacy settings could be simplified and I wish they would limit the changes they make to the platform during a quarter but overall I find a lot of value in the tool. This article however pointed to varies parties and individuals that were extremely critical of Zuckerberg, some even going so far as to say he lacked any social values.
I don’t know Zuckerberg from Adam but that seemed like a pretty bold statement. And while I understand where these various organizations are coming from in terms of protecting children from Internet predators, I can also see the future Zuckerberg is hinting to in the quote above.
Is it really that far of a stretch to image classrooms that engage more digitally? I’m not talking about giving children free range to be willy nilly online but it seems unrealistic to assume they won’t be spending more time there. Then a thought wandered into my head; what’s different between this type of activity and our kids walking to the store? I mean I’ve been talking to my kids about strangers since they were 2 or 3 why wouldn’t we just naturally move the conversation into the digital arena? Can’t you see a future where digital engagement and socialization is so frequent that children make phone calls through a Skype-like program? I remember a scene from Back to the Future 2 where Marty McFly was talking to a business colleague on a huge projection screen. Is that not feasible? Why is it wrong to think that kids will be engaging in a digital environment before they hit 13? Actually that would probably really set them up to be at a disadvantage as they move into high school. While Facebook isn’t the best example, there are some powerful things you can do with a classroom on a Facebook page and even if our children are getting online through a more secure platform surely we are talking to them about Internet safety. The article wasn’t making specific references to that but it is where my mind went when I read it. Honestly my thought was, “Dude, why are you bothering the man about this?He’s just calling it like he sees it.” So Zuckerberg sees a future where kids younger than 13 get on a social networking site (in his mind Facebook because that’s his company) don’t you see that too?
Was anyone out there allowed by their parents to walk a mile to the county store when they were 7 or 8? I know it was a regular occurrence when my grandmother was growing up. You can bet that wouldn’t be happening today without some serious rules on strangers. But the point is; we made the rules. Family rules that discuss what to do when kids are alone and approached by a stranger. You know what doesn’t come up though? What information is ok and not ok to give out in an email. I guess my point is, why doesn’t it come up? It is going to be a reality for our children and certainly their children.
What do you think? How do you talk to your children about Internet safety? When did you start the conversation? What age do you think is a good age to begin? And here is a question from the librarian in me; who is responsible for teaching your child those skills; school, family, friends, church?