My daughter, now entering her teenage years, recently asked me the question that many mothers dread: “Mom, can I have a Facebook page?”
Sure, social networking is great and, in many cases, fun and useful, but what happens when it’s not all those things? Teens, especially girls, can get downright nasty and vengeful during those formidable teenage years.
The news frequently reports on stories about cyberbullying and the dire consequences of kids harassing each other online, some pushing victims to the point of suicide.
The pressure to fit in and be liked is enormous, and with the easy use of social networking to spread rumors or to harass someone online, it only exacerbates a problem that used to exist only within the confines of the school walls. Now everyone and anyone can witness or provoke a cyberbully attack.
Take the mother from Long Island, New York, whose 12-year-old daughter was the victim of a bully at her school who took to to bullying her on Facebook. After she had allegedly had enough she forcibly dragged her daughter to the schoolyard and egged the girls to fight. Here's how FoxNews.com reported it:
"Authorities said two 12-year-old girls had an ongoing dispute on Facebook -- a "personality conflict" -- and decided to duke it out at the school. When one of them didn't show up, a friend took her place and they went at it."
That's right, the mother supported her daughter's plan to confront and physically fight the bully, because the school refused to do anything about it. In the end, the mother ended up attacking another kid who was watching the fight on the sidelines and was arrested.
But here's my question: why was this young girl on Facebook to begin with? Facebook’s policy states that users must be at least 13-years-old, and if they lie about their age and are found out they will be banned from the site...forever. While it may be hard for Facebook to enforce this rule because of the sheer number of users, it shouldn’t be hard for parents to do it themselves.
There are numerous ways to help keep our kids in check online, and as parents, it’s our duty and responsibility to protect our children. Social media or media of any type is not a right. It’s a privilege.
Kids need room to grow but not at the expense of their safety. After all, as parents we own the computer, we pay the electricity bill and, by the way, the mortgage. Therefore, anything that goes on under our roofs is our business. Simply requiring your kid’s password for any Internet accounts can save immense heartbreak.
Yes, I'll admit it. I’m a mean mom.
In a world of cyberbullies, cyberstalkers and sexting, parents need to take responsibility for monitoring their minor kids’ online activities. Technology is a wonderful thing, but without proper supervision it can be devastating. Parents would never let their kids roam alone in the scariest of neighborhoods without their supervision. So why do they allow them to venture out, all alone, into the wild west of the Internet?
Penny Nance is CEO of Concerned Women for America.