Some say Facebook is a blessing allowing you easily to keep in touch with friends and family, meet like-minded people, help you find a job or even market your business. Others say Facebook is a waste of time and, too easily, an invasion of your privacy. I say Facebook is a tool, a communication tool, much like email, the cell phone and your mouth. What you get out of it often depends upon your input, expectations and most of all, how you use it.
But is it a good idea for your children? In this article I’m going to share the benefits and drawbacks of allowing your children to have a Facebook account. Due to the length of this article, I am going to break it down into two parts. In this first part, I’ll cover the benefits of allowing your child to have a Facebook account. Next Monday, I’ll post part two in which I’ll discuss the drawbacks. You may be quite surprised at what I have to share on both sides of the issue!
One of the benefits of allowing your son or daughter to have a Facebook account is that it is a fantastic way to hone his communication skills. By interacting with friends and family on Facebook, your child will learn to tailor his message to each individual as he posts comments on Grandma’s wall or to little Jimmy who moved away last month. He’ll also gain description skills that communicating via the phone or in person would not afford him. Body language, facial expressions and tone of voice are absent from Facebook posts. It becomes necessary for Bobby to effectively describe the school project he had to do for history class instead of just show it to Jimmy. Facebook, if used in this manner can help increase his writing skills, especially if Bobby utilizes the Notes feature in order to write up his views expressed in his paper on Abortion. There are many examples of communication lessons to be learned by allowing your son or daughter to express themselves in writing on Facebook. These are but a few.
A second benefit of allowing your son or daughter to have a Facebook account is in increasing his expertise when interacting with folks of different beliefs and cultures. I’ll talk about the warnings of allowing your young children to get on or friend people he doesn’t know in part two, but let’s assume Bobby is 16 and has relatives in other states or countries. What a wonderful opportunity to learn about their culture and experiences! He’ll learn how other cultures see the world, how they live and may even see pictures recently taken of the Liberty Bell, or the Washington Monument or Big Ben!
An additional advantage is that your child will learn how communication works in the technological age they live in and will work in. Many companies are now hiring people to man Twitter and Facebook accounts in order to help customers who post they are having trouble with their company or product. I’ve had a very large company contact me via the social networking sites after I posted that I was having a hard time with one of their products. He helped me solve the problem! While your son may not be hired to do this, he will very likely need to understand the inner workings of communication in the technological age. In addition, Facebook has been used to catch criminals, to find a job, to recover a child during an Amber Alert and to ask for help or prayer with some serious matters. Facebook is not only the wave of the future, it is a most efficient way to disseminate information and get feedback!
Facebook is also a great way to stay in touch with family around the country build relationships with them and friends who moved away. I mentioned this earlier, but this may be the only way Bobby can have much of a relationship with his brother who is deployed or his grandmother who is back east. I have found Facebook to be a blessing in staying connected with my daughter while she has been 1800 miles away at college, when she was half way around the world as a Russian exchange student for a semester and when she was on a missions trip in Israel for two weeks!
Finally, Facebook is a fabulous start to overcoming shyness. Shy people are more likely to make friends or talk to friends if they can do so without having to be intimidated face-to-face. This can help build their confidence and self esteem enabling them to transition from online communication to in person conversations.
As you can see, Facebook is simply a tool. Used correctly, it can enhance your child’s communication skills and friendships. However, there are also some dangers. I’ll talk about them next week.
Can you think of any other benefits of allowing your (age appropriate) child to have a Facebook account? Share your stories and experiences with my readers!