#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 16°C Wednesday 27 October 2021
Advertisement

Column: I won’t let my young daughter join Facebook

Social networking sites can be harmful if children aren’t ready, writes Nora Creamer, whose 11-year-old daughter is desperate for one.

Nora Creamer

I AM A parent to two girls, aged 11 and three. The dangers and pressure associated with social networking and young people came to my attention some time ago, and I am experiencing this for myself with my eldest daughter.

It all started with mobile phones. Most parents initially refused to give them to their children. Then over a short period of time it became the norm for all kids to have their own mobile. One child got one and parents felt under pressure to buy them for their kids, as they didn’t want their child to feel left out. Following this came the iPods, iPhones and the BlackBerry. I have to be honest – as a parent I did give in to the phone and the iPod. But no way was I getting a BlackBerry for my eldest daughter, even though her friends had them.

Social media

Then came along the next pressure – Facebook. It started with a just few of her friends on it, but quite rapidly groups of her friends were talking about it.  At first, most if not all, parents said no. They said they did not want their kids on it. But over time and under constant pressure, parents gave in, and so it begins – one gets it, and another, and so on. It is now mostly acceptable for young teens to have Facebook. We need to stop here and ask ourselves: how far is this going to go? What’s next? Do we, the parents, have a say any more?

There is a culture now to follow along with the choices other parents make, and not the ones that suit our own children. We really need to evaluate our principles – as parents, as adults, as decision-makers. Every parent that has a child wants the best for them and knows it is their job, their responsibility to teach and protect them, no matter what. If your child came home from school and told you it was the new thing to take drugs and everyone is doing it, any parent would absolutely condemn it and would not feel guilty for refusing .

So why are we, as parents, allowing our decisions to be influenced – not only by our children, but other parents, the public and the media? I notice there is no help or understanding for parents out there. They often feel bullied themselves into this whole cycle, and obviously they want to please their kids and make them fit in amongst their peers.

Pressure

I myself did feel the pressure and I actually came close to giving in at one stage. It still is a daily argument here in our house with my 11-year-old. She is so persistent about it and nearly all her friends have Facebook apart from the odd one or two. I sat down one day and asked myself what is going on here? If I don’t say no now, when will I ever be able to refuse something that is harmful to my child? We as parents need to have confidence in ourselves – to know that we are  right and not be pushed into making decisions.

Pre-teens and young teenagers are not able to deal with all this social networking, and nor should they have to. Childhood should be one of the
best and most carefree times in our lives. Children do not have the maturity to deal with all that’s being thrown at them on these sites. Bullying is a big part of children’s lives and it is a big problem for those who experience it. All I see on these sites is that it makes this whole process even easier for people to engage in. They are sitting behind a computer and not feeling the impact of what they are doing.

Everyone thinks they will never be bullied when they join these sites. But the reality is, it does happen and on a daily basis. Young teenagers are quite vulnerable and think a lot about how other people view them. They struggle with their own identity and how to fit in amongst their peers. We as parents know this as we have been there ourselves before.

Cyber-bullying

Being bullied directly is no easier, but it is easier for others to deal with. A parent can get involved and may be able to deal with the instigator. But Facebook is different. People who you may not know can give an opinion. Young people get obsessed with checking their updates and comments, which makes the time they spend on it alone a considerable part of their day. Why do we need to check what other people think of us constantly?

The answer is, they are far too young and don’t have the maturity not to bother with what people think of them. I believe this maturity comes with age – and usually not until you are in your twenties.

My daughter may hate me and be angry for the time being. But when she is old enough and mature enough hopefully she will understand that I am making these decisions for her because I have her best interest at heart. I do believe she will thank me for this in the future and be proud that I didn’t get sucked in. Unfortunately, I’m learning many parents did.

We need to ask ourselves: do we really care what other people think of us? What shaped us into who we are today – what other people thought of us, or what we believed in ourselves? Let our kids be kids and have that freedom. And please do not feel guilty for protecting your children.

Nora Creamer is a mother of two girls and lives in Co Wicklow.

About the author:

Nora Creamer

Read next:

COMMENTS (76)