Minipost 10 – Facebook and our Pre-teenage children

Facebook has been, without a doubt, the single most important website in my family’s  life.

When we arrived  at Bangladesh in 2008 Facebook kept us in touch with all our friends. In fact, I’ve got in touch with old school friend who I had foolishly lost contact with and it has been wonderful to catch up with their lives and regain loved ones. In fact, the person who suggested I write this post is just such a much loved person and I am well blessed to have found her again (Hi Jacqui!).

But the question is – do we allow our children to have a Facebook site when they are under the stipulated age of 13?

The monsters!

The simple answer is: No. But, like most simple answers, it is not as simple as that.

Firstly, a bit like smoking and drinking alcohol when I grew up – everyone is doing it. We’ve refused to let our children have Facebook for years even though the majority of their friends at school have it. Similarly we refused to let them have a mobile phone too despite even more friends having that. We did so (and with our nine year old son continue to do so) because we care about them, want to keep them safe and don’t want them dependent on gadgets to be happy. They have a life here where they play outside in safety, have real friends and enjoy an innocent childhood with little encroachment of sex, drugs, scandals, fashion and a host of other things that young people are into and talking about. You can’t stop everything of course – nor should we try – but here the damage is limited.

Children being children🙂

I say damage because I saw it in the kids I taught in UK schools. They came into the school as happy, fun kids. Less than three years later they were cynical, grumpy teens frustrated by hormones and knowing about everything but not being permitted any of it!

We relented with our daughter, in the end, because she does still have friends in the UK and she will be going back to them one day. We want her to keep her links with them and when our son is old enough, we’ll let him do the same.

The way I think of it is this: In the end, we have set up the Facebook account, we control it and have complete access. All messages are emailed out to our addresses and my wife and I are friends on the account. It is not illegal to put any name you want in Facebook so we have put our account in our daughter’s name and allowed her to use it whilst being able to see everything she does if we so wish and at any time. I think that is a perfectly fine compromise to allow her to develop with her friends and do so in safety. It’s not everyone’s way of doing things and that’s fine. But I have to tell you – Facebook has been a blessing to us and allowed our friends to support us in Bangladesh – how could I be a good father and not let our daughter have that too? Her childhood it too precious.

Kids STILL being kids!

Fun with guns...

I write these miniposts for supporters of this blog. If you enjoyed this post please consider sharing it on your facebook, Twitter or blog to encourage others to sign up too! I would love more to follow the blog and learn about LAMB, Bangladesh and education (yes – AND hear my ramblings too!) – thanks for showing your support for the work we do. Love ya!

About D K Powell

British freelance journalist, author, writer, editor, musician, educational consultant. I lived with Wifey, Thing I (daughter) & Thing II (son) in Bangladesh for 5-6 years working for an NGO called LAMB. Wifey led the Hospital Rehab department and I used to teach O levels at the school before going full-time as a freelance writer in 2013. Now we're back in the UK learning how to be British again. When not writing or editing, I'm busy trying to complete a Masters degree in Intercultural relations in Asian Contexts and reading way too many books at once. I also drink tea - lots of it.
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18 Responses to Minipost 10 – Facebook and our Pre-teenage children

  1. jacqui says:

    Hi ken. Thanks for my 5 seconds of fame. I LOVE Facebook. It allows me to keep in touch with friends old and new and I LOVE being able to have a glimpse into their lives. As for underage fb, if its well managed I don’t have a problem with it. My daughter uses it a lot, not just for the social aspect but also for homework updates. All my family are friends with her and I can see everything she does on it. When she turns 13, nothing will change, at least not for the foreseeable future. I want to encourage independence but I also want to protect her and remind her that certain rules apply ‘ whilst under my roof ‘!!!! Keep on blogging ken. I enjoy reading them and having a glimpse of your life on here, just as I do on Facebook🙂

    Like

    • Yes exactly Jacqui – and since writing this post (all due to you🙂 ) I have found that an awful lot of parents do the same or pretty similar. I think that FB actually makes our kids more accountable and observable to us than we were with our parents years ago. That’s GOT to be a good thing! I liked my autonomy as a kid but I was well bored because parents tended not to spend much time with their kids. Nowadays, we all spend a lot more time with our children – but FB gives them the opportunity to gain independence whilst still being safe – IF it is used with care.

      Thanks for your encouragement Jacqui – I always appreciate it when you comment and love that you are sharing the journey with me – cheers hun🙂 x

      Like

  2. clownonfire says:

    I’m ambivalent with your point of view. I don’t think necessarily that Facebook is like smoking or drinking – maybe because I make a living developing social media strategies for brands.

    My 7-yr old boy has a Facebook account. It’s an account that I mostly manage, and that we will access together. Just like his usage of internet, at the age he is, we monitor his Facebook activities. We don’t spend a great deal of time on it, nor does he sees it (at this point again) as something truly interesting. But I’m enjoying giving him boundaries at his age already when it comes to it, to teach him moderation – yes, I think it’s possible, call me a dreamer. Just like television, which we are not big fans of home. I think it’s possible to work towards a healthy understanding of Facebook, at a very young age.

    This is just my opinion, and of course you know this by now, Ken, I do not encourage others to follow my foot steps.

    Like

    • Ha ha indeed I do😛
      I think you actually speak wisely (for once?) on this and, as I said, each to his own and our way is not your way or the next person’s but they are all valid.
      This post came from a comment made on Facebook from someone suggesting that no child under 13 should be on it. There are legitimate fears of course and I would not criticise anyone who didn’t allow their kid to go on for that reason, but I think that people like you and I who draw different boundaries are still being responsible in doing so.
      We also don’t like TV and don’t have any TV channels here in bangladesh that we watch. We do tons of films and TV comedies and things which we watch as a family and we allow a small amount of computer time for the kids to watch dvds screened by us. But most of the time we try to do things together – again, like you, because we’re trying to teach moderation in all things.
      Except blogs – you can’t expect someone to be moderate with their blog…can you?🙂

      Like

      • Oh I should also point out that the smoking and drinking reference was pointed (maybe) at my own British childhood where we all ‘did it’ and this is still very much the culture today in the UK. Likewise, ‘everyone’ does Facebook. I appreciate it might sound a negative connotation but the link was not intended – just referencing what happened/does happen in youth…

        Like

    • clownonfire says:

      I get what you’re saying, Ken.

      Like

  3. Ruth Subash says:

    I have to agree about Facebook being a good thing. With us having family in Malaysia, Omman and India. Friends around the world. It is a great way to keep in touch. It has enabled family to see photos of Suresh even though they have not met him or only saw him when he was 8 months old for 3 weeks. It has also enabled us to share with the world our work in Tamil Nadu.

    Like

    • Thanks Ruth – I agree entirely! It is possible that the history books may hold Facebook responsible for bringing the true global village together one day – as long as we keep actually getting out and seeing people too!🙂

      Like

  4. Sajib says:

    Where were these pictures taken? And where are you all right now?

    Great photos.

    Like

    • Thanks Bhai! They were taken last year whilst we were still in the UK during the summer and at a really good friend’s house.

      Now we’re back in Bangladesh – hence lots of blogs recently about LAMB and the Rehab centre!

      Like

      • Sajib says:

        Cool! How long will you be staying here? I was wondering if I’d be invited this April for a visit.😉

        Like

        • To LAMB or to the UK?! Well, it’s not impossible of course – we need to meet up down in Dhaka first I think – you might hate me after all😛 Also, LAMB is really not exciting after the wonders of Dhaka! But you are more than welcome, in principle🙂

          Like

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