Thursday, March 17, 2011


I hate Facebook. I have been fighting getting one for several years now, even though I've been invited to get onboard by family, in-laws, good friends, and every freaking website and online shopping site out there.

So far I haven't even been tempted. I can dig my heels in pretty deep when I want, and this is one area that has caused much distress and fighting between Earbaby and me. Let me back up.

I'm a gadget person, so I try to resist anything that will make me addicted. I was the queen in my house of the VCRs, then the recording DVD-VCR combo (still own one), and finally the DVRs. I had one of the first portable bag phones that plugged into the cigarette lighter. I almost never used it, I paid for it monthly as an insurance. When I married, my husband convinced me to get my first real cell phone. I hung onto that until I started dropping calls, because analog went out of style. I stayed low tech with the next phone and I've had a phone with the bells and whistles, now standard, of camera, video, recording, texts, web browsing, for less than a year. I had resisted upgrading again, waiting until the number of dropped calls got beyond irritating. I never used to even turn my phone on most of the time, until EB got old enough for daycare, preschool, etc., and I wanted to be reachable any time she was away from me.

Yet I have no need to be in constant communication with the world, via Facebook, Twitter, or any of the social networks that keeps us connected, yet emotionally distant. I love my friends and family. But I'd rather spend the time with them, or pick up the phone, than find them on Facebook.

EB is different. She has grown up in the age of the internet. She's been able to use the computer since she was 18 months old, sitting on her father's lap as he showed her how to use the mouse and learn the hand-eye coordination it took. She has computer class, does Power Point like a champ, can put together all kinds of picture projects, Google and Youtube to her heart's content. But she has no Facebook. She feels deprived, left out of the loop.

This has been a battle for more than a year. I almost gave in last year with the proviso that I would monitor everything on her account. That was before I discovered the age requirement is 13. Now I know there are plenty of kids younger than 13 (some of them her friends) who have Facebook accounts. They just lie about their ages. A recent New York Times story had a great article about it, which more or less sealed the decision EB's dad and I had been wrestling with. She'll have to wait until she's 13.

My decision came after the Times story, which told a frightening case of a kid who got sucked into communicating with a predator because he thought it was a schoolmate. It isn't the stranger your kid knows is a stranger. It may be the stranger your kid thinks is a friend.

But also, I don't want her to lie. We don't lie to her. I don't say she's younger than she is to get better movie ticket prices, or better prices at the amusement parks. We don't encourage any falsehoods to save a couple of bucks. We give back the extra change when the cashier makes a mistake in our favor. Of course we're not perfect. But it's those little things that instill character and integrity.

EB is not happy. And she's always negotiating. Recently she found out she's been accepted into one of the top schools in the area. It was hard work to get there and we agreed she deserved a reward. She lobbied for a Facebook account, ostensibly to stay in communication with her friends she'll be leaving behind in the fall. I still wouldn't budge, despite the whining. We settled on an alternative reward. She will get a phone upgrade.

 I'm standing firm on the Facebook. I know my generation of parents is more frightened and hover more than our parents did. But there are more ways for the monsters to get in the door. Our kids know all the rules of the internet communication, but the safeguards aren't as strong as they could be, and my daughter is still naive enough to post things that reveal a little too much about her online. This generation has no concept of privacy in the way we did. They still require a close watch. They don't understand cyberspace is forever.

Facebook will wait. A year won't make or break her social connections.

She'll just have to be mad. I have to be the mom.

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