I recently joined yet another social networking site. Not that I needed to be part of yet another social community, but because I was a concerned parent. When we began to allow our children to participate in online social communities I had two foundational rules: “I had to have an account on the site and I had to be in their “network”. At first the rules were put in place because I had not figured out this new world of “social networks” and wanted to learn the what, who, and why’s. Second, I wanted to have visibility to the online activity so I could help protect them, monitor their behavior, and have another avenue to connect with them.
Needless to say, I was a little disappointed when I discovered that one of my children was actively participating in a network called “myYearbook” without my knowledge. I was not familiar with this community so I wanted to see what it was all about. Here are my observations:
- The site advertises itself on the About page, as a place to “Play games, flirt and free video chat with people near you. Meet new people and make friends with free webcam chat.”
REALLY? A place to flirt? With “yearbook” in the name, I would think that this is a site targeted to a younger crowd that would not NEED on online location to flirt. This makes it sound more like a teen dating site. Do we really need and want an online dating service for our teenagers? I get that “yearbook” can apply to all levels of education up and through college – but I just am not comfortable with “flirting” as a mission with a name like this.
You are also able to earn “Lunch Money” by participating in various aspects of the site. Again – “lunch money”? Who are we appealing to here? This seems to be target younger members. Why? Why would a teen who relates to “lunch money” want or need to interact with a 40 year old that is trying to earn their “lunch money”?
- Since joining, I have received 40+ “friend requests. Of those, 39 were male and 1 was female.
The first 2 requests I immediately received were from the 2 creators of the site (1 being female). Ok. I get that. A la “Tom” from MySpace. Then right behind that I get an unsolicited request for a video chat from a male. Hello? Desperate? It also became VERY clear that either the community members do not read or don’t care to read the details of my bio.
What part of that says to the males “please connect with me regardless of your age and I am really impressed with names like “Da Thrill”?”
- On the positive side, the site allows you to login with your Facebook account – which makes you believe that only kids 13 years old or older are able to join. It also does state in the terms and conditions “YOU MAY NOT ACCESS OR IN ANY WAY MAKE USE OF MYYEARBOOK UNLESS YOU ARE AT LEAST A FRESHMAN IN HIGH SCHOOL AND 13 YEARS OLD.”
We all know that there are plenty of kids on Facebook that are not 13 years or older. (Guilty!) However, does a 13 year old really need an online site to flirt? Not comfortable AT ALL with that!!!
So, why did I join and why did I choose to blog about this since I obviously do not feel that I “fit in” in myYearbook?
- I joined to understand how the site worked .
- I joined to monitor my child’s behavior and interactions.
Notice that both of these were reasons I joined MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
- I blogged about it because I am not sure that other parents around me are aware of this site. Parents really need to be involved and be aware of how the methods of how our kids communicate are continuously evolving. We have a responsibility to ensure that they are protected and being respectful online. It is too easy to hide behind a user name and an avatar.
- I blogged about it – not in an effort to try to shut it down or censor it, but instead to point out that not EVERYBODY needs to join EVERY social network. There are some that will be a natural fit for your expectations and there are others (many more….) that won’t.
If you are a parent and you haven’t asked your kids what social networks they are members of, you need to do so…now. If you know they are on Facebook, but haven’t asked about others, you need to do so…now. If you haven’t explored the world of social networks, you need to do so…NOW. You can’t just ignore it and hope it will go away. You can’t just ignore it and assume your child is behaving in a manner that you would approve of. Even if you choose not to have an account (which is perfectly fine), you do need to understand how they work and understand the basic terminology so you can have open conversations with your child.
Needless to say, parenting continues to be THE toughest job of all.