4 Things I’ve Read Recently:
1. One high school newspaper created a fake Facebook profile of a student at their high school. In 14 days, this fictitious Facebook person had acquired 345 friends—none of whom knew that this person didn’t exist.1
2. Only 37 people rejected the friend requests for this fake friend.2
3. Eight people asked this fictitious person to become their Facebook friend.3
4. Ninety percent of students had accepted a friend request from a stranger.4
Here’s My Take on It:
One of the first questions kids might ask when they learn that one of their friends has a Facebook or MySpace page is, “How many friends do you have?” Social networking sites have added more pressure for kids to be popular. Because of this pressure, more kids are willing to “friend” someone online; often someone they don’t know well—or don’t know at all. The insightful study by the teenagers at the high school mentioned in the above section illustrates just how much kids feel pressured. Why would 345 classmates say “yes” to being an online friend of a fictitious fellow high school student and only 37 say “no”? (Yes, it’s true that they didn’t know that the person was fake, but shouldn’t that have made them question who this person really was before saying “yes” to being online friends?)
Kids are quick to notice who has five online friends, who has 300, and who has 4,000. (It’s shocking how many online friends some kids have.) But kids need to know that the quality of their online friends matters more than the quantity. Yes, both of my kids have “friended” kids they don’t know well, but at least they know them in person and talk to them in other places besides online. Both are aware of the pressure to increase the number of their online “friends,” and we keep talking about how to discern who to friend and who not to friend. In our home, it’s clear. You can become online friends only with people you already know in person. The internet is not a place for kids and teenagers to meet people.
Ask your child: “How do you decide who to friend on social networking sites?”
- Find out more about keeping kids safe online in our online safety section
- Read and talk about McGruff’s online safety tips with your child.
How do you monitor who your child’s online friends are without invading your kids’ privacy?
1. Abby Bongaarts and Nomi Kane, “Do You Know Who’s Facebook Stalking You?” The Echo, the student newspaper of St. Louis Park High School, St. Louis Park, Minnesota, April 15, 2010.