This post is extremely explicit and contains adult language and is written for 18+.
If you are under 18 or feel you may be offended then DO NOT read it.
This was a very hard post to write, but I feel very strongly about this issue, and therefore my obligation to pass this information on. Similarly, if you know anyone with kids on Facebook, please share this article with them.I am an avid user of Facebook personally and for my business, and this article is not anti-Facebook as such, it is about minors on Facebook, and the often inappropriate language and discussions they encounter.
Facebook – It’s free and it’s safe….isn’t it?
Facebook is an online community where you join for free and set up a profile page with information about yourself. You can then locate and connect with other people who have joined Facebook to be part of your ‘virtual’ social network – making them ‘friends’. Facebook has 700 million users, with one billion predicted before 2013. Facebook say you have to be at least 13 years old to have a Facebook account.
According to the Facebook Security Centre page,
“Just like adults, teens use Facebook to connect with friends—through chat, personal messages and sharing photos, videos, links and other kinds of information. They use Facebook to announce achievements, wish each other a happy birthday and plan social events – like going to a movie or a friend’s house.”
Sounds great, doesn’t it?
Well, in reality, it isn’t.
Here are some ‘chat and personal messages’ taken live from Facebook this week.
I have obscured some of the worst words to make this post less offensive, but on Facebook all these words are fully spelled, and not censored.
Sample Exchange 1
Boy 16 “Ah who are you anyways?”
Girl 15 “That girl you tried to rape a few months back”
Boy 16 “I never raped anyone, get your story right bitch. You were that drunk slut, having sex with everything that moved…”
Girl 15 “I said you tried too, and just cause I love cock! Wouldn’t even want you choad* up me anyway”
Boy 16 “Good I don’t want aids.. Even if I did, you would still have room for another 4 cocks, you dirty big hole slut”
(* choad is new slang for penis, or the area between the penis and anus)
Sample Exchange 2
Boy 16 “Just f#ck off. It will be funny when you realize how of a bitch you actually are, because by then you will have no friends at all. Pull ya f#cking head in seriously!! Stupid bitch..
Girl 15 “whatever…. this has gone way to far now.. You abusing me for no reason is really getting to me! I do f#cking nothing wrong! I’m sick of top toeing around you because I’m scared what you’ll say but f#ck ya !
Other Sample Comments
?Boy 16 “Grow some balls c#nt” Nan that’s my girlfriend”
Boy 15 “I smoke cones out of your mums vagina!”
Boy 15 “Girlsname best root. Knows how to make your night, takes it up the ass. Also knows how to use her hands. 10/10.”
Boy 15 “Boysname takes whatever he can get such a fleece bag. He even got caught wanking over his mum in the shower.”
Boy 16 “Boysname gave one to Girlsname up the ass in the boys toilets at school. He split her ass cheeks 4 inch apart from each other. But he said it was worth the ride, even though it was smothered in blood and sh!t.”
Girl 12 “You make my p#ssy and panties wet”
I told you it was bad, didn’t I?
In preparation for this article I logged on to the Facebook website, and in less than 5 minutes came across these posts, comments and exchanges above, not by searching for them but by just clicking on a profile of a 14 year old girl and then through to some random profiles of her 900 ‘friends’.
I could easily copy and paste these posts to reveal the full names, photos and even mobile phone numbers of some of those involved, in fact anyone could, because once you write on Facebook it no longer just belongs to you. It is there forever, even if you delete it, it is there somewhere.
Now, to be clear, it is not Facebook that has made the children that wrote these comments as morally devoid as they seem to us. I am sure that in real life, within their peer groups, they are every bit as unpleasant as they present themselves to be on Facebook.
The real issue is that my child and your child, who we hope are never going to post comments like this, or even think this way, are just two clicks away from reading this type of exchange.
And what exactly does a 13 or 14 year old child think when they read these words and try to understand the extremely adult concepts described, especially when it appears as a seemingly acceptable form of banter between their peers, and their ‘friends’?
Facebook – Devaluing Friendship
Traditionally, the word “friend” means a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection. It also implies a certain level of trust.
In the Facebook world, you are encouraged to connect with your other real world friends that have joined, and further encouraged to make new ‘friends’, who might be total strangers, or ‘friends’ of ‘friends’.
Furthermore, Facebook actively recommends potential ‘friends’ to you, based on the fact that they know someone you know.
So in this new virtual world, a ‘friend’ is not necessarily a friend at all. They might even be the exact opposite.
On Facebook, when a teenager has 500, 600, 700, 800, 900 or even 1000 friends, the word ‘friend’ is no longer the correct terminology.
Many teenagers see it as a popularity contest, amassing as many ‘friends’ as they can. When I ask “Tell me three things about this friend?” there are no answers, because they do not know them. I questioned teenagers, “How often do you see something inappropriate?” they all answered “Every day”.
They may not be the one writing the inappropriate comments; it could just be a friend of a friend, which they have connected with. Most parents know their children’s friends from school, sports activities and family friends. What you can never know is who your children’s Facebook ‘friends of friends’ are, especially when they can run into the thousands.
Your child may be completely innocent and use Facebook appropriately, but they could be one click away from accepting a friendship from someone who you would never want your child to associate with, or someone you would not welcome in to your home.
“The only people who can see what teens post are their Facebook friends, friends of friends, and networks (like the school they attend). We maintain added protections and security settings for teens (age 13-17) that ensure their profiles and posts don’t show up in public search results. Similarly, if teens share their location through Places, only their Facebook friends can see it.”
And this would be great, if it referred to the true meaning of the word friend.
But in the Facebook world, a ‘friend’ can mean practically anyone, which makes a joke of their “Relax, it’s only friends and friends of friends who can see teenagers posts…” attitude.
Facebook – it can’t hurt, can it?
Facebook is a totally unsuitable environment for most minors and out of the technical grasp of many parents. Its proliferation and appeal to the young is desensitising our children by exposing them to extreme sexual words and concepts far too early.
Ask yourself – would you want to show your teenager the Facebook posts at the start of this article? Why not?
These are teenagers, not adults. As adults we can choose to read what we want and pretty much do what we want. We also have a greater awareness of the sad, dark and alternative side of life, but our experience and emotional maturity enables us to (hopefully) filter out that which we find offensive or confronting.
Young minds are not at this stage, and more dangerously they are at a crucial developmental stage mentally, which will shape their future adult personalities.
These are children growing into teenagers growing into adulthood. Does exposure to this help our children grow into happy, kind, respectful and loving adults? Does it give them a balanced view of the world, of human nature, of friendships? Or does it damage them in some way?
Teenagers are using Facebook in the classroom on their mobile phones. Teenagers are setting up Facebook pages bragging about who they have had sex with in their town. Teenagers have their mobile numbers on their profile page and some profile photos are extremely provocative and some are just rude and offensive.
With the teenagers I work with and mentor, I see first hand the damage it is causing to our children, with many using Facebook up to four hours plus a day. Some of their behavioural issues are aggravated or being fuelled by Facebook and what they read on there.
I do understand that across the Internet, there is a variety of uncensored material, but Facebook is the biggest social media our children are using today and there is an implied responsibility for them to provide age appropriate regulation or moderation of the virtual environment.
And all the time they are selling the parents on how great and warm and fuzzy it all is.
It needs to be changed; Facebook, parents and schools need to change this now!
Facebook – who’s in charge of it?
Parents, we need to be catching up to our teenagers and taking active responsibility for them. It is our ‘duty of care’.
If you have a child under 12 with a Facebook account you should cancel it.
If you have a child 13 or older and are happy for them to have a Facebook account, be aware of who their friends are, talk to them and help guide them through all the nasty stuff out there.
Communicate with your teenager; insist on technology free time at home and make sure they truly understand what a real friend is.
Schools, why does a teenager need a mobile phone in their lesson? Make it school policy that mobiles stay in lockers’ all day. Yes! Even at break time. Teen’s Facebook each other when they are in the same room and sitting next to one another. These teenagers are losing or not fully developing inter-personal relationship skills, their social skills and their respect; Facebook is their online world.
Facebook needs to pull its head out of the sand and say, “Yes we have a problem”
Facebook should change their system, and implement (at least) two levels of relationships with people. One called ‘Friends’, – which would specifically be the people who are your real friends, and another call ‘Connections’, – who are all the other people you may or may not want to know. This would restore the definition of friendship, and allow everyone to discern between the two groups, both in their interactions and in their minds.
Facebook need to provide an automatic filter to block out or obscure obscene words in real time on the pages. The filter should also be activated automatically for all accounts belonging to minors. I am sure the technology for this already exists.
Facebook needs to close down all profiles who belong to known underage users and shut down all current profiles with extreme offensive language.
Facebook needs to find a system to verify a child’s real age. I acknowledge that this is no easy task, but they must try.
Facebook – they care about our kids, don’t they?
You would think with all the lip service paid to security and safety by Facebook on their site, that once I had brought these comments to their attention that someone would be mortified, take some action, remove the posts, or something.
“A new feature, social reporting, lets people report offensive material to Facebook at the same time as they alert someone in their community (like a friend, parent or teacher) who may help them address the issue more directly. We hope that features like this will help people get to the root of the problem quickly. As we do with all of our features, we’ll continue to refine social reporting over time to make sure it continues to be an effective safety tool.”
I tried their social reporting, to no avail. I have tried to contact them multiple times through every means possible, the links on each offending page, direct email, Facebook Safety Centre, blocking and reporting profiles, yet I have not had a single response, not a peep. And I am not even sure if they have received the messages I have left for them.
According to Nicky Jackson Colaco, Facebook’s Safety Policy Manager, “There are a ton of people who work on safety at Facebook..”, yet I cannot seem to get a response from a single one of them. Needless to say, these posts as quoted are still on Facebook.
Facebook can, and do, just turn around and say it’s up to the parents to be responsible for what their children do, but some teenagers do not have the support or come from a family who are tech savvy. In fact, Facebook’s own security site tells parents that their children will most likely know more about Facebook than them, and they should ask the children for guidance!
Facebook acknowledges that you, the parent, are unlikely to know much about how it all works, but assures you it is a good environment for your child to spend time. In fact, they are talking about opening it up to all ages, with no minimum age.
I found a Facebook page titled “Facebook’s Commitment to Child Safety Online”, which assures us in some blurb that ‘they are just going to keep on doing a great job!’.
Posted below the blurb were a number of comments posted by Facebook users, and I have copied these below.
I can give you a list of sites that are openly minors. They make no effort to hide it – some as young as 7 and you won’t take them down. You’ve written a nice article [Facebook] but, quite simply, we don’t believe you. May 26 at 1:44pm.
Extremely angry that you have allowed the developer and application ARE YOU SEXY/you are sexy access not only to my 13 year olds fb page but that it continues to email me although I’ve marked it both as spam and requested that it be deleted and have failed. Tuesday at 10:15am.
SOMEONE NEED TO CHECK THE PERSON WHO MADE THIS PAGE HE’S TAKING CHILDRENS PICS OFF THE PARENTS PAGES AND MAKING FAKE PAGES OF THE CHILDREN SAYING HOW HE WANTS TO RAPE THEM AND DO THINGS TO THE CHILDREN AND SENDING THREAT MESSAGES TO PEOPLE!!!! PLEASE FACEBOOK DO SOMETING ABOUT THIS ISSUE WITH THE OWNER OF THIS PAGE TITLED XXXXXXXXXXX !!!!!!
I have learned that my 9 yr old grandson has a fb page, I want to disable his account but don’t have password. I’m not sure how it was set up but I have tried reporting the page, I am concerned because Interested in was marked men..I know …there are a lot of freaks out there and I don’t want my little 9 yr old grandson attracting that attention. Don’t you have to be 13 yrs old? Who can I send his information to without spreading his name in the open for all to see? May 29 at 8:51pm.
Our children need guidance, support, morals and respect. They need shielding from the adult side of life until they are adults, which is pretty much what parents have been doing for generations. This is made more difficult in the case of Facebook as the children we are trying to protect are usually far more savvy in the technolgy than their parents, and it is almost impossible for a non-tecnical parent to get to grips with the complexities of the security and privacy settings for social networking.
Facebook, parents, schools and government must work together to maintain this shield.
Facebook will not do it on their own. After all, why would they? It’s all good as far as they’re concerned.
Facebook in the News