But last night, my friend Dave gave my sister an odd bit of advice about parenting: "Get them on Facebook at least a year or two before you think they're ready -- and friend them. I know more about my daughter through Facebook than you could imagine."
Mark Zuckerberg agrees with him. Back in May, he readily confessed that millions of kids under 13 are using Facebook, and that you're better off educating them on how to use the social net wisely: "My philosophy is that for education you need to start at a really, really young age.... Because of the restrictions we haven't even begun this learning process... If they're lifted then we'd start to learn what works. We'd take a lot of precautions to make sure that they [younger kids] are safe..."
Although Zuckerberg's perspective may be self-serving, the wisdom in his words, and in our friend's, lies in the fact that you need to know what you're dealing with if you want to be able to influence it. So the question then becomes, would you rather know -- or not know?
On our own heavily moderated website, which deals with 8- to 12-year olds, parents are often surprised and grateful when they receive information from our team about their kids' activities. It doesn't really matter whether the information is good, bad or indifferent; the fact is, the more they know about their kids' online behavior, the better positioned they are to make decisions and offer guidance.
Of course, as kids get older, they become more and more sophisticated about what they choose to share and what they choose to keep private. Over on guilty pleasure Lamebook, I spotted an exchange that started as a silly joke about a penis, and degenerated when the mom weighed in with the comment, "TMI." Son Colin replied, "Dammit! Sorry mom. Yet another reason Google+ would be better served for a penis status Kris! Being able to share with who you want is a plus." Mom herself liked the idea, coming back with, "Maybe they could use that in their ad campaign. Google+ -- The place for your penis status."
To be clear: I am not advocating for kids under 13 to be on Facebook. I am not recommending that you break Facebook's ToS or making any value judgments about when and where you choose to allow your kids to go online. What I am advocating for, from the top of the mountain and at the top of my voice, is conscious choice.
Meanwhile, my nephew is now on email, and corresponding with the whole family. We're thrilled to have the direct communication with him and, as someone in the biz, I'm delighted that he's learning about digital communication from a young age.
What are your thoughts on kids using social media? Share them in the comments or on Twitter.