May 30, 201207:00 AMMinivan Diaries
Should You Let Your Tweens Use Social Media?
One day last spring, I opened up Facebook. At the top, in the “People You May Know” section, was a photo of my son. He had a huge grin, his baseball cap on backwards, and his pinkies and thumbs extended in a surfer’s “hang loose” gesture.
What he didn’t have was permission to join – either from Facebook, or from me.
I closed his account, and told him he’d have to wait a few years.
I should have known that would not be the end of it.
Last week, I got an invitation from Google+ from -- my son. So I joined his “circle,” and what did I find? His twin sister. Who’d developed quite a following. Evidently, she was smart enough not to send me an invitation.
Although I am fairly certain that no one uses Google+ except, apparently, fifth graders, I was not comfortable with all of this. I turned to my husband for help.
What was I thinking? To put it delicately, social media freaks him out.
Recently, he’d sat at the kitchen table, staring at his Facebook page, looking pained. “People keep writing on my wall,” he said, his eyes darting desperately across his laptop screen. “I can’t keep up!”
“No one expects you to write much back,” I responded.
He didn’t answer. “Today’s the birthday of the guy down the street!” he suddenly blurted. “Do I want to know this!? What do I do with this information!?”
“How about writing ‘Happy Birthday’ on his wall?” I said. “Just a thought.”
“I can’t do that!” he half-shrieked. “That’s just too . . . . personal.”
My 15-year-old barely glanced up as she switched tabs between Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter.
“It’s ‘too personal?’” she asked, uncomprehendingly.
“OK, I did it!” my husband said triumphantly. “I wished him a happy birthday!”
My daughter looked at his page. “Dad, you wrote that as your status. You just wished everyone a happy birthday,” she said.
She looked at him with a mixture of horror and pity.
“Well, I guess you’re good on birthday greetings for the year,” I said.
“But what about this Google+ thing?” I persisted, turning to my daughter. “Should I let them stay on it?
She was too busy writing captions on Tumblr to gifs of Darren Criss to respond.
I considered tweeting her my question.
But she paused to check the texts on her phone. I asked again.
“Eh,” she shrugged. “No one’s on Google+. And, actually, Facebook’s fine. It’s for old people and people who just turned 13 and finally got an account.”
She glanced at my husband. “Sane old people.”
Suddenly she shouted, “Whoo-hoo! I got 2,000 notes on my Tumblr post! Oh yeah!”
Clearly, the teen social media ship has sailed, at least in our house. But as for my fifth graders, what do I do? Hold the line – or surrender?