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.
- I swear. A lot. And I don’t give a shit who reads it.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- Posting his FULL NAME on his profile
- Posting his PICTURE so any internet-trolling sicko can see it.
- Posting a Twitpic of his REPORT CARD to “prove” he’s in 8th grade.
- 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.
- Posting his FULL NAME on his profile
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.