My heart sank when I read that Facebook may lift the ban on under 13s using the site.
My technology and social networking crazy nine-year-old already has a Twitter page, his own website and several email addresses, but his requests to join Facebook have always been met with a firm 'no'.
My Facebook page is a place for grown-up banter and fun; a space to publish silly photographs, share innuendo laden jokes, and even update my status with an expletive filled 'what's on my mind'. And it's not something I want my nine-year-old being part of.
Just like I would not add my parents to my page (in the highly unlikely event they joined the 21st century and tried to add me), I do not think it is a place for my offspring. My Facebook is one corner of my life my son does not need to play a part in. Sure, I have other family members on there; my brother, two of my nephews, an auntie and some cousins, but they are all old enough to appreciate my humour and what I get up to outside of parenting not to question it or be shocked by it.
I would hate for my son to see my tipsy status updates, or silly pouty profile pics, or my cheeky wall post exchanges with other adults. And I do not see why I should tone them down just so he could.
Fortunately, his friendship circle seem keener on communicating via Skype and video chat than joining Facebook at the moment, and so although the request for joining crops up every now and then, it is not a relentless barrage. But I know this will change once he gets wind of the new age limits and all his friends start signing up.
Speaking to other parents I know, a lot of them share my concern about under 13s using the site and for the same reason as me: they don't want their OWN behaviour being called into question by their kids! Others have already let their kids sign up and friended them, but limited what they can see on their profile, allowing them to still be a 'friend' of their youngster and monitor what's going on on their page, but restricting what their little one could see on theirs.
Obviously I could do this too, or, simply allow my little boy to have his page and just not add him as a friend, but I know other people who he would add - family friends, older cousins and relatives whose pages are just as bad as mine for grown-up humour and silliness, and I wouldn't be able to police them.
There is also the issue that I already despair of his computer usage, and adding Facebook to the mix would just be another time thief - at least when he is Skypeing his friends there is SOME face to face interaction.
Four or so years down the line I know I won't be able to stop him nipping off the library and using one of the computers there to set up an account, or doing it from his friends' house or school without my knowledge.
I still won't like it, but at 13 he will be probably not be as shocked by the fact his mother sometimes has a potty mouth and an endless supply of innuendo laden statuses updates - and as a teenager he will probably be so embarrassed by me anyway, the last thing he would want would me being his friend on Facebook. Though by then of course, as hormones, girls, secrets and thoughts of a private life away from mummy start kicking in, I shall be insisting that I am...
And an alternative view..by Tamsin Kelly
Under-13s on Facebook is fine - as long as they follow a few rules.
And rule number one is they have to be Facebook friends with me, their mother. I have three children and they were all on Facebook by the time they were 11 - on accounts I helped them create.
If your children want to be on Facebook, they're going to be. If not from your home, then from their friend's, from their phone, even from the school library. How much better for you to be handing the life jacket for this first leap into social networking, than for them to jump in alone?
The fact is that the vast majority of children in the UK will join Facebook by the last term of primary school (in preparation for a summer holiday apart and the move to 'big school') or within the first term of secondary school.
The Facebook rules are simple:
1. Dad and I are going to be reading your updates. We'll try to just lurk but sometimes we might like or even comment (sorry, it might be embarrassing, but that's our role as parents and your friends think it's funny). We won't stalk your friends in a creepy way but if they send a friend request, we will accept.
2. Don't ever give out personal information - names, addresses (especially party ones and meet-ups), dates of birth. That's what private messaging is for.
3. Don't ever 'friend' someone you don't know. Friend of a friend isn't good enough. It's not a game of who's got the most hundreds of friends. You know the drill about cyber creeps pretending to be children.
4. Don't ever bitch about anyone. I'd trust you not to do it 'in real life', so don't think Facebook is any different.
5. Ditto anything that casts you in a poor light. I know this seems a million miles away, but your 'social profile' is worth caring about when it comes to universities and future employers.
6. Beware of fraping. Don't give your password to even your best friend and don't leave your laptop open, unless you want someone to write 'I like my bum' (you know who you are - and you got off easy!).
7. That's it, time's up. You're not allowed to spend your life on screens.
There is simply no point getting hysterical about Facebook and 'not knowing what your child is getting up to' and 'bad influences'. Facebook is a good place for them to learn appropriate online behaviour, when they are still impressionable and when you and your friends are looking out for them, and before they graduate to the wild web of Tumblr.
It's also fun. I enjoy seeing my son's silly photo of him dressed up like Nicki Minaj. other son given his own 'awesome T-shirt' tag at a party and my daughter's guitar playing videos. I like the fact that they are friends with my friends, so when we're planning a get-away together they all pile in with their (often not so helpful) opinions.
As for Kelly's angst about her son straying into her territory, to a certain extent that's simply what happens as your children get older. Gone are the days of tidying your children away at 7pm bedtimes and having grown-up time; now their elongated bodies take up all the living room space and you're more likely to be watching The Simpsons than that TV drama you recorded days before.
Chances are they won't be the least bit interested in their mum posting photos alongside witticisms, not when they can 'like' their friends' new posts. That's the whole point of Facebook - why would you talk to just one person, especially your mum, when you can talk to 10?
What do you think? Are you friends with YOUR kids on Facebook, or is your page off-limits to children?