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How Do We Keep Alias Generation Off Facebook? Permanent Mittens

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I read with amusement the other day that Facebook is developing new technology "to let" children under the age of 13 use the site with parental supervision.

When I told my 13-year-old daughter that Facebook would officially let her have a page, she laughed, too.

Hannah has had a Facebook page for years. She also has at least one other "alias" FB page that she has told me about. I am her "friend" on both so I can monitor her.

Hannah also has at least one Twitter account that I know of, where she observes and communicates with the singing sensation, One Direction, as well as movie stars and celebrities.

Like most teenagers, she texts her friends incessantly when she is not in school, from the minute she gets up until she goes to bed.

Hannah can access these social media sites from a number of sources, including the desktop computers in our home, her laptop computer, her iPhone and even game devices.

HELLO! Millions of kids like Hannah are already on Facebook and other social media sites. At this point, trying to limit their access is a joke.

According to a 2011 Consumer Reports study, 7.5 million children under the age of 13 -- including five million under age 10 -- use Facebook, many with the knowledge and consent of their parents.

Facebook has spawned a young generation of deceitful Americans who lie about their age, their sex, their sexual preference, their marital status -- just about everything -- to become a user.

These kids make up names, insert pictures of others, allege that friends are sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles and other family members. If they have any trouble setting up an alias, they have a friend do it for them and share the password.

Ask any parent or school disciplinarian about the downside to kids being on Facebook. They'll tell you that person-to-person interactions are down, making our kids almost anti-social. And all too often, the drama that occurs online plays out in fights or bullying at school.

There was a time when you could limit a child's use of the phone. But with computers enveloping our existence, there are just too many ways outside the control of parents for kids to continue tweeting, texting and Facebooking.

While Facebook is reportedly developing technology that allows children under 13 to use the site under parental supervision, it's too little, too late. The "alias" generation is just too technologically sophisticated to be held back now.

At this point, the only way to keep them off Facebook is to make them wear mittens, 24-7.

Published in Florida Voices on June 8, 2012

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Steven Kurlander blogs at Kurly's Kommentary, writes a weekly column for Fort Lauderdale's Sun-Sentinel and is a South Florida communications strategist.

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