I joined Facebook in 2007. I don’t know what I did before that, because I was hooked fast. I’m a social media junkie. Facebook, Instagram, my own blog. But Facebook is my favourite. I like face stalking people and seeing what they’re doing. The good, the bad. I put myself on display for anyone and everyone too.
My first child had a Facebook account at 11. The others won’t be having social media.
At the time I joined the in thing for kids was My Space. He wasn’t interested in Facebook, it was for old people. After a few months that changed, and he joined. About the same time he got his first mobile phone.
The issues started pretty quickly. I’d see him getting stressed out, he was on it for hours. Posting photos, adding friends. The friend list grew rapidly. When you’re a kid your social status depends on how many Facebook friends you have. At one point he had around 1000. I’m almost 40 and haven’t met 1000 people in my life, so I did wonder who all these “friends” were. But I left him alone.
When he was 13, he came to me with his mobile phone and showed it to me. There was a topless photo on it a girl had sent him. My husband and I sat him down and explained the trouble he could get into – and left it at that. We didn’t contact the girls parents, just deleted the photo and her number. In hindsight, I wish we had. I’d want to know if my 13 year old was sending topless photos to someone.
Around this time he friended me on Facebook. I’m not sure why I wasn’t already on there. I was shocked by what I saw. Fighting, abuse, nasty comments. Half naked girls and boys, kids in compromising positions. Kids bragging about things they’d done. Back then if there was security no one used it. I could see everything. Half of which is still burned into my brain. Much arguing ensued. He’d post something stupid, I’d yell at him to get it off. He’d block me. I’d pull the Internet. He’d re-add me I’d reinstate it. It was a cycle.
He was 14 and away at school when I got the phone call.
“Hello, this is the Federal Police. Is your son X?” We need you to come into the city in the next 48 hours.
I spent 2 days grilling him. What had he done? Was he going to be charged with cyber bullying? What was going on? I hounded him.
We went in together. I’d worked us both into such a state we were hyperventilating. There was both a female and male officer in the room.
“Do you know Annie – your friend on Facebook?” He confirmed he did. He started to look embarrassed and they asked him if he wanted me to leave. I did.
“Annie” had sent my son an image. A pornographic one. Luckily for him he had realised that the picture wasn’t a standard selfie a teenage girl would send. He had stopped talking to her, but she was still on his friends list.
“Annie” was not 14 we discovered that day. “Annie” was a middle aged male. A paedophile who had stolen a girls picture and contacted over 50 children. With my sons testimony taken that day, and along with information provided from other children – “Annie” was jailed for two years.
I know children at 10 who have facebook accounts. I don’t judge. I did it with my son. But I’ve made the decision my next four won’t have Facebook.
Will I bow to kid pressure? Maybe. The next one is currently 8. What I can guarantee is if and when they do get an account I will be their friend. I will have access to their passwords. I will go through their page and messages daily. I will read anything and everything they both send and receive.
Not because I don’t trust my children. Because as a parent, it’s up to me to protect them from the Annie’s of the world.