Jul 2, 2012

Why My Kids Aren't On Facebook

Social media has revolutionized much of our communication in the last 7-8 years.  I remember when I first started hearing about "Facebook" from my college students several years ago.  Although I wasn't in college at the time, I received an invite from one of them when it was opened to non-college students and have been on ever since.  I joined Twitter in 2008 after reading about it on a blog.  For the first few months, I tweeted although everyone reading my tweets I knew absolutely nothing about.  I love to surf through my "tweeps" each day. I get links to great blogs and articles.  I have met some new friends through Twitter. I use Facebook each day to connect to family members, church members, and many old friends through the years.

However, right now my sons are not allowed on Facebook.  My oldest 2 have Twitter accounts, but they haven't really become addicted to them yet.  Now if you keep up with me on Facebook, you know that my oldest son Nathan has a FB account.  However, you will also notice that he hasn't posted anything on it for over a year.  Let me explain why?

A few years ago, my son Nathan asked me if he could get a Facebook account.  Some of his friends from the church and school were on FB and talked about it.  I talked it over with Alison and we decided that we would monitor his friends list and what he was posting.  So we signed him up for an account.  Then I had to face a decision that I later regretted.  The Facebook policies state that authorized users must at least 13 years old.  In order to enforce this policy, I had to enter in my son's birthday.  However, in order to make it work, I had to lie about my son's birthday so that Facebook would think he was at least 13.  He was 10 at the time.  Like many parents, I want my son to have the same things all his friends have.  I justified my action by the usual "all the other parents are doing the same thing" excuse. 

So, we signed him up and he began connecting online.  But I spent the next few months mulling through the actions I just committed and the lessons I was teaching my sons.  Soon after, son #2 began to ask when he could have a Facebook.  Then #3.  Every time I looked at my son's profile page, I had to live with the decision that I lied in order to let him have access.  What was I teaching my kids?
  • That it's ok to lie about some things as long as it doesn't harm anyone.
  • That it's ok to conform to peer pressure in some situations.
  • That abiding by policies is conditional upon whether you agree with them or not.
  • That if you can get away with something without getting caught it may be worth trying.
This is not the way that I want to parent.  These are not the lessons I want to teach my kids.  I don't want to model for my children "situational ethics."  I want my children to believe that the man in the pulpit is a man who practices what he preaches.  I want them to know that even though it is often hard and costly, it's always the best thing to follow what God says, even in the small things.  Lying, dishonesty, and cheating are never acceptable.

I want my life and my parenting to be modeled by God's word.  Proverbs 10:9 says "Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out."  Proverbs 20:7 says "The righteous who walks in his integrity— blessed are his children after him!"  I want my kids to walk in that blessing of my integrity.  Even if they don't understand it right now.  Even if most of their other friends are doing something different.  So, we deactivated Nathan's Facebook.  We had a talk with him about why he couldn't have a Facebook yet.  I told him I didn't agree with the policy, but it wasn't my policy.  I also asked him to forgive me for modeling for him a life characterized by lying.  He reluctantly agreed and we deactivated it.  (Now, one day I accidentally signed on as him and reactivated it. I can't remember his password, so it stayed activated, but he's not allowed on it.)

Parents, I write these things not to say that I am a better parent or that parents who let their kids get a Facebook are bad parents.  I don't think you have necessarily led your child down a road to hell just because you let your 9 year old get a Facebook.  However, I just ask you to think through what lessons you are teaching your kids and what they may retain.  How will this action affect your parenting in the future?  What grounds do you have to tell your kids not to lie if you lie for them to get a Facebook account?  Every week I get another friend invite from an under-age kid.  I know that Facebook knows it's going on and that policing age policies is not high on their priority list  Personally, I wish they would change the policy so that I can let my kids get on.  But until the policy changes, I must abide by it because in some ways, my children's integrity is at stake.