This morning, I received a request from a 12-yr old to add him as “Friend” on Facebook. Now, others may have no problem clicking the “confirm” button, but I found myself hesitating. I have nothing against this child nor do I have anything against being friends with someone that much younger than myself. What held me back was if I would be condoning someone’s violation of a very basic principle of Christian living.
I clicked, instead, on “Terms” and this is what it says under “Registration and Security”, Point 5: “You will not use Facebook if you are under 13.” I don’t think it can get plainer than that. It means what it says.
That said, I am very aware of many children who have no problems keying in a birth year (other than their own) to get around this barrier. They see nothing wrong with lying about their age. After all, what’s the big deal? Besides, all their friends have done it too. And to stay connected, they have “no choice” but to join the crowd. On this issue, a young adult (a Christian, no less) made this remark rather glibly, “Hiya, just lie lor. We also did that until our age didn’t become a lie anymore!”
Then I wonder … perhaps, these kids have done it behind their parents’ backs? Surely, Christians parents wouldn’t encourage their children to fake their age, would they? Well, I guess they would, since they are listed as “Friends” too. In other words, they must have known and condoned the act of lying*. Perhaps, not at first, but after finding out probably thought it’s ok to leave it as it is. After all, everyone does it, and it’s not a huge crime like glue-sniffing, robbing a convenience store or cheating in an exam, right? Besides, would it not be even more detrimental if my child misses out on the social and community aspects of online networking?
At this point, I guess I am coming across like a big prude and a party-pooper. It’s ok, I’ll live with that label 🙂 I’ve often reminded others that it’s usually not the big items we need to look out for but the little ones. Huge rocks don’t stumble or trip us but the small stones and pebbles do. As a parent, I want my children to understand what it means to hold to a certain value and to live it to the glory of God. By allowing them to lie only shows them what it means to compromise and to have double standards. It is sending them a signal that says “Don’t bother about rules and regulations. These things are there to restrict you from all the fun and good things. As long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, you can bend these rules a little to your own advantage.” I definitely do not want them applying the same negative lesson to God’s Word and His life principles.
Let me quickly add that it has crossed my mind many times to allow my 12 yr-old to join me (and other church friends) on Facebook. But however I rationalise that it is ok, it is just not ok! I’ve had my chats with him and together, we read the “Terms” so that he understands that such compromises are simply out of the question. This is not about being legalistic but demonstrating a life that would please and honour God. I am also teaching my children what it means to respect authority and to submit to what has been laid down.
So how should I respond to this young man on Facebook? Perhaps a little note explaining my stand might help? I’m sure he will understand. Then again, it might offend his parents?
*I know this sounds rather harsh, but let’s call it what it is.