As a parent of a tween and a young teen, it’s hard not to notice how Facebook use has crept younger and younger and younger. And as a children’s book author and a professor of children’s writing (Hollins University http://www.hollins.edu/grad/childlit/childlit.htm) who writes novels specifically for tweens, it’s my job to vollow this trend. In fact, my latest book deals specifically with the issue of tweens and young teens ranking each other and posting this on Facebook, as well as other social media and the fall-out and hurt feelings that this causes. Since I know that so many tweens out there are using Facebook as a means to communicate who they like and how they feel about other kids, I needed to reach those readers with The Hot List and let them know–hey, you can really hurt your friends when you post who you like and who’s attractive and who’s not. The rule I’d like to communicate is–if you wouldn’t say something to someone in person then don’t put it or write it on your Facebook page so if you were “single” would you go around telling everyone about it? No, probably not.
Personally, I didn’t allow my older son to get a Facebook account until he was 13, and have noticed how many of his friends are using the relationship status as well to signal that they’re either looking for a new relationship or unavailable. As a mom, this bothers me. When you have a climate where relationship status is advertised at a very young age with social media it creates an environment where many social conventions are thrown out the door. A good friend’s daughter was devastated when her boyfriend actually broke up with her on Facebook through a posting. Naturally, she changed her status to single very quickly.
I completely understand why tweens and younger teens use the status feature. They want to communicate their availablity. However, I think teens under 15 need to learn to do this in person. Guess I’m old-fashioned. Of course, whether teens younger than 15 should be actively dating is another story, and one that each family needs to deal with it.