Google+: The Place For Your Penis Status

My nephew is 9, and my niece has just turned 7, and I think it is fair to say without the least bit of bias that they are clearly sweet angel geniuses and the embodiment of perfection on earth. Seriously, anyone would say that; it's not just 'cause I'm their auntie.

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.

2 comments about "Google+: The Place For Your Penis Status ".
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  1. Frank Gallagher from F. J. Gallagher & Associates, August 5, 2011 at 12:17 p.m.

    Good piece, but I'm trying to figure out what the headline possibly has to do with the actual subject matter.

  2. Rick Monihan from None, August 5, 2011 at 2:24 p.m.

    I am reminded of a discussion I had with my barber in 2000. She was complaining that her 14 year old daughter was on AOL Instant Messenger "too much" and "I don't know what she's doing". Since I worked on the product, I had some easy replies.
    1. when you were 14, you were on the phone and your mom said the same thing.
    2. in all likelihood, your mom put the phone in a public place and didn't allow you to have your own (times HAVE changed) so she could monitor your conversations a little.

    I asked her where the computer was. "In my daughter's room." I told her that was wrong - children who live at home have limited rights based on what parents are willing to give. I would never (and still don't, at the age of 17) allow them to have a computer in their room. At night, all wireless devices are left on the kitchen counter. No shut doors when using a device. But, I said, do not stop her from using technology like this - it is transformative, even if you don't quite understand it, it could be crucial to her development. Just keep better tabs on her.

    My wife allowed both sons to start a Facebook account at age 12, ONLY if they friended her and allowed her to have their passwords. This rule stands, as long as they live in the home. We constantly preach to them the problems of posting inappropriate comments or pictures. Every parent at the high school knows what a "red cup" party picture means. We're also quite aware that the aluminum "water bottles" in tow at a party are not filled with agua.

    You can't stop your kids from using the technologies, but you can teach them to use them responsibly. While they may be upset or rail against the rules and restrictions at first, in the long run the kids accept them and realize it's all in their best interest.

    Oh yeah - part of the agreement of having parental access is this: we promise to NEVER post publicly on their wall. Even online, kids don't want to be seen with their parents....but they are OK knowing their parents are keeping an eye on them.

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