Friday, February 27, 2009

Parents Don't Belong on Facebook

"Parents don't belong on Facebook."

Or so said my friend's 18 year old son, when she asked for his help in setting up her account. It wasn't too many years ago when this same boy used to share everything with his Mom. They would take long drives to nowhere, and discuss girls, his day, his friends, his dreams. No topic was taboo. But now, as a young man, he was putting down his cyber-foot.

Facebook is the equivalent of a young person's electronic journal. It is a place for a kid to be free to talk to his or her homeys (It was hard to type that without smirking, yes), without fear of parental censorship or ramifications. As a parent, you would respect their privacy if it was their diary or journal, right? (Right?!?)

I have to say that I like Facebook. I like keeping touch with a lot of friends all at one time. I like knowing what is going on in their lives. Sometimes life is just too busy to email everyone. With Facebook, you can update all of your friends at the same time. When my daughter gets old enough, do I want to be able to access her Facebook space? I'm not sure about that yet. She's 9, so she won't be getting an account for at least another 20 years. (uh-huh)

However, I do think that there are lots of places that adults don't belong. As adults we have a lengthy history of messing up things that started out as kid's entertainment. Let's start with Beanie Babies. Kids fell in love with these cute little stuffed animals, and to the extreme horror of their parents, they CUT OFF THE TY TAGS! (OMG, what WERE they thinking? Did they think they were TOYS for God's sake???) At $5.00 each, they were a perfect and easy kid's birthday gift. Then, adults discovered monetary value in Beanie Babies, and it all went downhill. We bought the animals, but we didn't let the kids play with them, much less bend/cut/mutilate that "precious" TY tag. We were saving and collecting them to pay for our children's college education. Our children lost interest in Beanie Babies, and the resale market plummeted. A Beanie Baby is again worth approximately $5.00.

Enter the new high-tech Webkinz stuffed animals. This time, you DO open the tag to get your secret Kinz code to enter into the WEbkinz site. The plush animal itself rates a distant second to the animal avatar who resides on the website. Oh, there's so much to do! The animal has to work, garden, buy food, get groomed, etc. It's enough to keep kids and adults busy! Oh, and your real live dog or cat who actually lives with you, they won't mind that you have to spend all of your time on this fake animal now.

While the WebKinz phenom wanes, I am seriously suspicious that there are many more adults playing on the Webkinz website than children.

Harry Potter. Kids discovered the young magician and devoured his books. Then, came the adult fans, and in true fashion, laid claim to it. As adults, we take the special things that are geared to children and we adopt them as our own. Didn't we have good childhoods? Do we have to take everything cool, and by our very un-hip adult ownership, make it "uncool" to our children? Why can't we abstain from taking their "stuff?"

"The 39 Clues" is a multi-media mystery and adventure which involves a series of books, cards and a gaming website. The books and website are geared towards 6-14 year olds. I introduced my daughter to the books and she loved them. We entered her cards into the website, and she immensely enjoyed going through the "training missions."

Imagine my surprise while researching "The 39 Clues," when I came upon an adult chat forum whose main discussion was how to get around the age bracket of 6-14 years old, when registering for the site. There are prizes to be earned, but guess what, kids aren't going to be able to win, because there's so many adults playing on the website. Why can't we just leave the kids' arenas to the kids? Why must we get involved and sully the entire event? It's enough to boil my blood pressure when I see the high scores for the month at 350,000 points. Try explaining to your 9 year old, that the game is being played by adults, too. Try explaining that adults are playing the games that are meant for children who are her age. Adults who seriously need something better to do with their daytime hours. Pathetic.

Another example of adult infiltration of 39 Clues...On EBay, people are selling rare, unused collectible cards. Instead of collecting the cards and taking your chances with the random card packs, adults can get immediate gratification by purchasing the cards that they need. Can't wait? Buy your rare and ultra-rare cards online!

I remember hearing about young boys who collected baseball cards. It was a natural extension of their love of baseball itself. Young boys used to thumb through their cards lovingly(Ack! Unprotected??), trading their duplicates to friends, and flaunting their best cards with something akin to pride. It was a social event, and part of the fun was the story behind the card's acquisition. Admit it, there's just not a lot of pride today in saying, "I bought it on eBay."

Unfortunately, Boys don't collect baseball cards anymore. I assume it's because there are too many adult boys collecting them now. Adults boys put each of their rare cards into its own protective PVC-free, archival plastic sleeve. Yeah, we messed that up, too.

The funny - or maybe ironic - thing is that when adults take over ownership of a children's venue, the children seem to lose interest. So...who knows how much longer this Facebook thing's going to be around...

In the meantime, I'm going to help my friend set up her Facebook account. I'm pretty sure that her son isn't going to accept her friend request though. :)


Andrew said...

nice read.. I'm in the computer game space and when we see what kids like from games it's the ability to succeed, to beat the game, to complete the level. When you think of adults, you see there's no real difference, in the main we want the same thing from our game experiences. So why are 'kids' game environments popular with adults? Because there are a lot of adults out there looking for simple game experiences they can enjoy and places in which they can be competitive and succesful.does it spoil it for the kids.. YOU BET!

Anonymous said...

I'm 18 and I totally agree with everything you just said. THANK YOU for admitting it. and yes im like your friends son i wont be friends with adults- all my aunts/uncles/parents have one. I dont have anything on there that inappropriate , but still there needs to be boundaries.