I’m the Reason your Kid Shouldn’t be on Twitter

What are your kids seeing on the interwebz?  I hope it's not me...Have a seat, ‘rents. I got into a pretty consuming discussion this week with a Tweep who was presenting himself as a 13 year-old kid writing an ebook on time management. First, let me say that I harbor considerable doubt whether this “kid” is truly a “kid” – more inclined to believe it’s just some douchebag marketer using a minor child’s likeness (sleazy as all hell) as a gimmick to promote a cause.

I said it on Wednesday and I’ll say it again now: I’m the reason your kids should not be on Twitter.

Like most tweeps, I don’t tweet with a filter. I don’t edit my content. I say what I’d like and people who want to hear it subscribe. If they don’t, they stay away. Twitter is permission-based communication at its finest. I’m going to make some points today to substantiate my case that YOU DO NOT WANT YOUR CHILDREN FOLLOWING ME (or people LIKE me) on Twitter.

I’ll preface what follows with a few very important facts:

I do not dislike children – it’s just the opposite. My niece and nephew are the apples of my eye and I’m really looking forward to having a family of my own one day.

I know I’m not a parent. So for any of you who feel compelled to make that point, I just made it for you.

I think that social networks have a responsibility to their audience and will stand by my feeling that any site that allows minor children to register for an account should have parental controls.

So, I’ll begin by prefacing that there’s a child psychologist who follows me on Twitter who shared the following insights with me following my Wednesday sparring match with the purported non-adult tweep:

“Really don’t think he’s a minor. I think this is a publicity scam. This domain was first registered on 4/1/09; ownership info blocked by privacy registration site. There is a link to his website ‘about’ floating in google that goes to a broken link; I suspect he killed his real ‘about’ info to create this facade. Finally, I’m a child psychiatrist, and unless he’s the next Mozart, his prosody, composition, writing style, vocab, and design are all WAY above a 13 yo. I’ll go w/the odds.”

Now, the above tweep protects their updates. I will DM him that he is mentioned in this blog and offer him the opportunity to share his identity with my readership in the Comments section. I’m not whistlin’ dixie and those are real words. And me? I agree with him.

If you’re a parent, god only knows what your kids run across online or in real life on a daily basis. I think back to when I was a kid and the forces MY parents had to contend with – and they’re nothing like what parents have to navigate in this day and age. That said, here are my reasons that I’M why your minor child should NOT be on Twitter.

  1. I swear. A lot. And I don’t give a shit who reads it.
  2. Precocious kids can do a lot of things. Twitter doesn’t have to be one of them. I should know. Summa Cum Laude from high school, Cum Laude from college, Who’s Who Among blah-blah-blah, and blue ribbons and trophies out the wazoo. And I did it all without Twitter. I can tell you that my parents had a piss fit when they saw my brother and I watching one of Steve Martin’s standup comedy shows on HBO back in the 80s. I can only imaging what parents would say if they saw their kid reading my twitter stream.
  3. I love kids and don’t want to have to worry about yours “overhearing” me on Twitter. I’m the gal who will gently reprimand her date if he drops the f-bomb at brunch and there’s a family sitting at the next table. Believe it or not. I respect the fact that most parents don’t want to hear my linguistic stylings and “creativity.” Why would you allow your child in a forum where they can find me at-will on the public timeline?
  4. I know what’s on Twitter, who I follow and why I follow them. I’ll venture to guess that when you drop your kids off at a “friend’s” house for a party or sleepover, you know the company he’s going to keep and if there are going to be chaperones. Allowing your child on Twitter, unmonitored (and really – do you have TIME to monitor your child on Twitter?), is like dropping them off at a biker bar and hoping they’ll stumble upon a conversation that compliments their current studies in algebra class.
  5. Most users on Twitter aren’t crafting conversations for kids. We go to Twitter to converse in 140 characters or less with our peers. My peers aren’t 13 years-old and nor do they need to be. I’ll sit down and reap with a kid all day long at a picnic, family outing, charity event (yes, I raise money for childrens’ charities on a regular basis) or whatnot. When I can PLAN to have those conversations, I love them end they enrich my life. I don’t PLAN to have them on Twitter and nor will I.
  6. Lack of parental controls. I really don’t think it’s possible to restrict access to the public Twitter stream. Sure, you can control followers through blocking and whom you follow, but Twitter lacks any functionality for parents to edit content. I seriously doubt you want your kids following my series of tweets accompanied by the #fbomb or #suckit hash tags.
  7. And a final point that has nothing to do with ME personally, but child safety in general: Kids can be dumb. They don’t think and in the case of the alleged 13 year-old above, don’t possess the ability yet to assess consequences or make complex decisions. The “minor child” in question makes the following dangerous errors in their Twitter communications:
    1. Posting his FULL NAME on his profile
    2. Posting his PICTURE so any internet-trolling sicko can see it.
    3. Posting a Twitpic of his REPORT CARD to “prove” he’s in 8th grade.
    4. His report card image showed his full legal first name and teacher’s name. I can’t explain how dangerous that series of ill-advised moves is to a 13 year-old boy online. Parents – would you have allowed your child to post those things? My god. I would love to share all of this info with the Jefferson County DA’s office, where a nationally-recognized team of investiators focus strictly on child predators and Internet safety for kids. I saw this team present a month or so ago at Columbine High School, and parents – the Investigator from the DAs office showed HOW EASY IT IS to find kids online. It terrifies me and I’m not  a parent.

In closing, I’ll say that there were a lot of brilliant comments from parents this week as I went through this “13 year-old” flinging poo at me like a zoo monkey. I know that there are parents out there who do a brilliant job at establishing parental controls and setting rules for communications – electronic or not – in their homes. My point here is this: you had a kid, and you’re going to let them wander into a forum like Twitter to openly view the shit I (and many other tweeps like me) spew daily? C’mon now. My mom would have kicked my ass. And I get that your kid might be precocious and there’s no way to watch your kid every moment of every day. I’m just saying that if I were you, I wouldn’t want my kid wandering into @RedheadWriting’s Twitter Stream.

A bigger fear of mine? That this kid isn’t a kid at all making dumb mistakes in the world of Internet safety. I’m more scared that it’s really a parent using his child’s likeness and name as a fucked-up marketing gimmick.

24 replies
  1. Paul Beiser
    Paul Beiser says:

    As usual, a great read, well written and some advice we would all do well to consider. Unplug and Keep it Personal (and meaningful in some way – humor, a connection, help, help) are probably the strongest messages in this entry, Erika.

    The more faithfully you listen to the voice within you, the better you will hear what is sounding outside. And only she who listens can speak.
    -Dag Hammarskjold

  2. jamiefavreau
    jamiefavreau says:

    Thank you.
    Relationships and business matter. It does not really matter if you are doing it live or online. If you listen more then talk and act interested instead of being the life of the party. You build relationships that last.

    I have learned by making meaningful connections you can find a mentor and be the difference. I also think it is the quality of relationships. If you can learn from someone then I think it is a beneficial one.

  3. theclimbergirl
    theclimbergirl says:

    Aw, honey – this is another great post. I’ve been struggling with some of this a bit myself… there are days I find myself just backing away from the computer entirely, ’cause I need a break. I love being a part of my own little online neighborhood… but some days, I just don’t have it in me. The days I don’t, I spend non-tech, so I think it all balances out. I was just thinking (and, sent a tweet to that effect) that I’m thankful I made a totally separate twitter account to follow my closest peeps from… yes, I could use a group in TweetDeck, but even there I miss stuff. I like logging into my secret, small little “closest peeps” account and in 2 minutes catching up on the days that the 23 people I really want to keep close track of have had.

    I have been thinking that it’s time to do some housekeeping on the big account, myself… need to shift the signal to noise ratio.

    PS … had a “moment” last week and channeled you, but haven’t had time to email you about it. When I get grief from folks either for things I write on my blog, or say on Twitter, I just think… WWED? I love that.

  4. Riotred100
    Riotred100 says:

    I have to say, I just recently joined Twitter and stumbled onto your site and in all honesty, of all the links I’ve gone to, and all the blogs have not been half as interesting as your writing. In the 5-10 second world we live in, the catch and reel is what it is all about. The esthetics on your page as well as your flare for writing has made this a great journey to a new part of the web for me. Thanks bunches. I will be back.

  5. The Redhead
    The Redhead says:

    Awesome words for a blogger to hear – thanks for the follow on Twitter and I appreciate your readership! Social media is a cool and confusing world – finding how it works best for you can sometimes be a struggle!

  6. pattipdx
    pattipdx says:

    Thanks for such a great post. I think you nailed it with the Mayberry analogy. The internet is so big, we all need to create a little bit of home where we dwell.

    Nice job.

  7. steve sundberg
    steve sundberg says:

    Wow! Excellent, thought-provoking wisdom, Erika. From my own experience, I’ve found Facebook to be more personal and Twitter to be a way to reach out to expand my social horizon. There are times when I definitely feel overwhelmed by both (Twitter more so than FB) and feel the need to decompress from time to time.


  8. Marianna Chapman
    Marianna Chapman says:

    I LOVED your creative writing – and not so subtle strategic wizardry. Strategy for managing mayberry… good stuff. We should all consider the why, when, how much a bit more… nice to meet you.

  9. Anonymous Twitter User
    Anonymous Twitter User says:

    A client of mine who runs an adult blog has a Twitter account. We’ve had to block various real kids (and lots of fundie Christians, hilariously) who use scripts to autofollow thousands to get thousands of followers in return.

    Twitter simply doesn’t have the child-protection controls yet to allow your kids to have accounts. Don’t let them on.

    Good post, Redhead.

  10. Matt Dibble
    Matt Dibble says:

    I watched this entire interaction on twitter with little Johnny and I thought immediately… “this is some asshole using his kid’s or a relative’s likeness for pub.”
    And even if it isn’t, it’s the same premise, gaining notoriety by using the likeness of a kid… not for accomplishing a single damn thing.
    It’s weak in either instance.

    And I blame crap-hole reporting outlets like GMA who will do a special on some dweeb b/c he’s 14 and starting his own business. Who cares? We should be reprimanding the kid for not taking the time to have fun as a child… not for giving in to the pressures of the rat race at an age that’s 66% of what normal people do. Although in truth, I guess he’ll digress backwards into childhood once the drug addiction starts b/c of all the attention he received at such a young age. The universe rights itself in that way.

  11. Emily Of Texas
    Emily Of Texas says:

    The thing of it is, parents have Parental Controls, i.e. “No.” I can’t believe that some other raving red-head has had to take on the responsibility of protecting other people’s kids from herself. The very idea is ridiculous. I do however, appreciate her efforts. On the off chance that my daughter would stumble upon some one like you (or me) on the internet, I’m surely glad that you are looking out for her.
    My child understands that there are ‘adult conversations’ and ‘kid-friendly conversations’. The adult ones are not her business.
    More on parental controls- if I find something really funny on twitter and laugh out loud she’ll ask me what I’m laughing at- I’ll either show her, or tell her its for grown-ups. That’s it. Its so f****** easy ( I can say that here, right?)
    There are a lot of things that are difficult to protect my child from. Speeding cars, overly sexually mature children, pregnant teenagers, grief, disappointment.
    It’s damn easy to protect her from twitter, so of course I do.

  12. Teacher from Illinois
    Teacher from Illinois says:

    So let me get this straight. We need to protect kids from something useful and fun because of vulgarity (really, really serious vulgarity). Should we tell kids not to go see the latest Pixar movie because a R rated movie about a chainsaw juggling clown is showing in the next theater? Kids will get on Twitter – keeping them away from vulgar tweets isn’t protecting them from anything.

    The dangers you present are more of an indication for the need to teach digital literacy. The answer simply is not to just police kids away from the Internet, but to teach them how to use it. My little sister had her full legal name on myspace and her picture and all sorts of other information (name, address, phone number) – I almost had a heart attack. The answer is not to tell her not to use myspace, it’s to teach her how to use it and that is a parent’s job. We aren’t cops, we’re teachers.

    • The Redhead
      The Redhead says:

      @ Teacher from Illinois – since you said on Twitter that my “comments are as ridiculous as they are irrelevant,” I’ll chime-in with yet another irrelevant thought. Keep teachin’ man. It’s folks like you that have to pick up where lackadaisical parents leave off. Especially since there’s an alarmingly large number of parents who see teachers as babysitters, you carry a pretty heavy burden.

      And of course – kids are going to get everywhere. You tell them no, it makes them even more curious. The intent of the post is to alert parents as to WHY they might not want their kids on Twitter. Twitter is NOT useful for kids. If you want to teach kids about social media, the importance of brand presence, the ability to reach a diverse network through virtual means – show them LinkedIn. No parental controls needed and it’s about as professional as you can get. But if you want to keep blasting someone like me for having a thought about what parents let their kids get into, sure. Go ahead. I’m sure there’s worse shit that gets chirped about in the Teacher’s Lounge at your school. God forbid, I’m one of those kids who viewed my teachers as mentors, got a full-ride college scholarship and have gone on to a career I love.

      Fuckin’ crazy.

      • The Redhead
        The Redhead says:

        And just so my readers know – the purported 13 y.o. posted a comment to this blog saying something like his mommy was upset.

        I’ll stand by my policy that no known minors will have their comments posted here. It’s for HIS safety, especially since the kid used his real name and photo, along with a trackable ISP address.

        So I’m NOT just a blogger with an opinion – I actually DO care. Go figure. (Oh, and it’s also the reason I BLOCKED that user’s account on Twitter. If it really is a kiddo, he doesn’t need to see anything I tweet.)

  13. Canageek
    Canageek says:

    The existence of things like oh @twittilate and @GoodVibesSF and people like @Tatty @Furrygirl @Violetblue @badbadgirlx @BoardofControl and @EssinEm should be enough to keep your kids off of twitter. I follow some of these, there the type of content I like to see on twitter, but NOT FOR KIDS. I mean, even me, who rarely swears IRL, will, after a friend phones me in tears will let lose a few F***s or in a #tfe (TwitterFictionEvent) will swear in character/in response to the situation!

    I think twitter if fine once you hit high school, as honestly? There is little on the net you can’t find in your average high school if you look hard enough. Younger then that? No thank you please.

  14. Jeremy
    Jeremy says:

    Webkinz and Lego.com are the only things I let my kids on… they hear enough damn shit and hell from their Dad… they don’t need to hear it, or worse (however funny IMO) from a crazy redhead!

    Parents allowing their children free reign of the internet is irresponsible at best, and borderline endangerment.

  15. Mike Roe
    Mike Roe says:

    I don’t have kids. And, except for one really weird hour a while back, I don’t want kids. I don’t dislike them. In fact, someday (sooner rather than later, most likely), I hope they’ll come and visit me at the nursing home (bring cigarettes, kid. If you do, I’ll tell you about the time Steve Martin called my copy “amateurish.” Who’s Steve Martin? What’s copy? “Grandpa bought a rubber?” Forget it. Thanks for the smokes. Now, get out of here.).

    With that said, my philosophy?

    Kill ’em all, and let Red sort ’em out. Douchebag marketers, that is.

  16. Twittilate
    Twittilate says:

    Though it’s mostly just suggestive and not porn, my erotica is not suitable for kids or safe for work. Twitter should provide an opportunity for users to flag their own content as adult. Flagged streams could be kept out of the public timeline.

    Love Twittilate xxx

  17. Jon
    Jon says:

    As a self-admitted internet addict (even it that’s the 1st time that I actually /typed/ those words) I knew that this topic was one that I not only wanted to read when my head wasn’t as distracted as it was when you first posted it, but also when I could actually /think/ about doing this in my own life every now and then.

    I’ve been online in one way or another since about this time in ’95 — that’s a helluva long time. And worse yet, I’ve been stuck in front of a monitor for most of the day since either late ’91 or ’92… so long that I don’t even really remember.

    I used to shrug this off by saying “such is the life of the programmer,” but you’ve helped remind me that part of why I am trying to switch careers was to be able to “unplug”. Sadly photography has gotten focused (no pun intended) on the retouching more than anything else.

    You’ve also made me wonder if somewhere along the way my life would’ve been better (meaning more fulfilling and satisfying) had I learned how to “unplug” every now and then early on. I know that /if/ I ever have kids, I’ll be limiting their computer usage. Now if I could just figure out how to do that myself. :-

  18. joel hersh
    joel hersh says:

    to be quite frank, if my kids were 15 or 16, i would encourage them to read your material. it’s honest. as for the words, george carlin said it better than i can. your stuff is about the real world and the assholes one encounters on a daily basis. but what do i know, i took my kids to see the “wall” when they were twelvish—joel


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