Why I Caved on Facebook

When my son, who is now 15, was in 7th grade, I became appalled by the amount of time he and his friends spent online.  None of them had Facebook pages. All the timesink occurred via gateway drugs like Google Buzz and iChatting and other communication vehicles I had never heard of. 


I was also alarmed by their public “conversations” and the idiotic things they wrote.  They were all nice, smart kids.  But from reading their chats, one could logically presume they were homicidal, racist, sexist thugs.


So it seemed wise to forbid my kids from having Facebook pages - which after all had been designed for college students to use - until they reached some form of mental maturity, which I arbitrarily set as their 16th birthdays.


This policy went down like cod liver oil with the two oldest children, who were 12 and 13 at the time.  The youngest, at 8, was preternaturally focused on getting a cell phone, the first bastion in the parents vs. kids communication battleground, so the advanced delights of Facebook eluded her.  But my older children campaigned for Facebook on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis.  They trotted out all the wonderful people Facebook would help them stay in touch with. Camp friends!  Cousins!  Their grandmother! Me!


My husband and I held firm.


Then my son entered 9th grade.  At first, the Facebook ban seemed a stroke of parenting genius.  His grades held steady, despite the grim warnings of teachers about the increased workload and IQ demands of high school.


Then, gradually, it began to dawn on me that the entire human race had migrated to Facebook.  I was forcing my son to live in a bleak, morning-after type of societal desolation.  My capitulation was simply a matter of time.


First came my son’s social isolation.  Popularity had always come effortlessly to him in the small fishpond of elementary and middle school, with friends mobbing our house after school and on weekends, and a glorious stream of birthday and Bar Mitzvah and trips-to-the-beach invitations from classmates and acquaintances of both genders.  But as ninth grade progressed I began to notice that the kid never went anywhere anymore.  No sleepovers, no movie get-togethers, no parties.  For months.


I gingerly inquired.  Had his friends all suddenly turned into drug addicts or bullies, to be avoided on Friday and Saturday nights at all costs?


"No, Mom," My son explained, resignedly, as if asking a favor of Hitler, that every single party, flirtation, and movie outing now occurred via Facebook.  His friends wanted him to come, but he never found out about anything until the following Monday morning at school.


This was bearable.  Selfishly, I liked having him at home.  We watched a lot of Prison Break and NBA basketball together.   He babysat his younger sisters.  But as he slowly sank into a quasi-depression, I began to worry.  The kid needed some friends his own age.