Facebook and others should take a bigger role in educating kids and their parents

When the chatter started about Facebook letting pre-teens use the site without having to do it on the down-low, I wrote a column exploring my own thoughts and actions regarding pre-teens (my daughters) and Facebook.

I concluded I blew it with my kids by letting them join before they were 13.

James Steyer, CEO Common Sense Media

But in reporting the column two sources brought up an interesting point that didn’t logically fit into my column. Both Stanford’s Roy Pea and Common Sense Media’s James Steyer, in their own ways, suggested that Facebook had a responsibility to do a better job educating the public on the issues surrounding pre-teens’ use of Facebook.

“They should be spending some of that 16 billzy, that they just got, on a very sophisticated public awareness campaign,” Steyer said, referring to $16 billion in IPO money. “They are accountable to the parents of the world. They need to be accountable. They need to do really smart common sense solutions.”

Besides the campaign, Steyer is looking for an “eraser button” that would let kids cleanse embarrassing or inappropriate posts from cyberland and some other technical solutions to help keep kids out.

“They have some of the most brilliant engineers in the world,”‘ he says, meaning Facebook should be up to the task.

Roy Pea, a Stanford education professor who’s studied the role of technology in children’s learning, said that there is likely a significant number of parents who have no idea what their kids are doing online. Or at least there are a good number of parents who don’t know all that their kids are doing online.

And chances are many kids have a better understanding of the ins and outs of the online world than their parents.

“The onus is on companies like Facebook to provide really good resources for exactly that kind of education,” Pea said.

None of which relieves parents from their responsibilities to guide their kids through the online world.

“I think in general it’s a good idea to have parents serve as mentors and apprentice kids on the wise use of the Internet,” he says, “and whether it has to do with searching naughty sites, Web security, identity theft…”

Pea points to Singapore, which includes such training in its national technology education plan.

“They have five year plans,” he says of Singapore. “They have a cyber-health course that is a required course in all the middle and high schools that cover all these issues.’

Sounds like a good idea to me.

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Filed under Education Technology, Silicon Valley Business, Silicon Valley Life

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