I came across this interesting article regarding teens and social media on—of all places—the gossip site Dlisted.com. Hollywood actress Megan Fox recently had this to say about teens using social media.

“I think it’s really toxic for our youth culture. There is a hierarchy in schools of who’s the cool kid based on who has the most followers and who has the most likes. It’s a really terrible message to wake up every day and have your kids going, ‘Who liked my photo?’ and ‘Who’s following me?’”

Fox went on to say:

“When I was on Twitter for five days, I would have 12 and 13-year-old kids going, ‘If you don’t follow me back, I am going to kill myself.’ I was like this is fucking awful. Parents should pay attention to that and have your kids off of it. You’re not ready for that shit when you’re a teenager. You need to be an adult before you can start messing around with that. It’s irresponsible and it’s dangerous.”

I have to say that I agree with her 100 percent. I know that all of the major social media sites (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) have 13 as the minimum age requirement. I’ve long been uncomfortable with 13 being the minimum age because 13-year-olds are at that age where they are still naive and vulnerable. I’ve witnessed enough crazy drama among adults online (including flaming wars, cyberbullying, etc.) that I would not want a young teen exposed to. Frankly, I think 17 or 18 should be the minimum age to be on social media because older teens tend to start being more mature and level-headed. But they should be given such access to social media only after taking a semester-long course in high school on Internet safety and the “do’s” and “don’ts” when it comes to how to behave online. This course would include real-life examples of teens who were cyberbullied to the point of suicide, teens who met a stranger they knew from the Internet in real life only to be raped and/or murdered, and other such real-life cautionary tales.

A few months ago I wrote another post about a 14-year-old girl who has an Instagram account who has been sharing too much about her personal life, including her struggles with depression and self-mutilation. Her account is still online and she’s still posting selfies amongst her numerous photos of her doll collection while leaving posts about her personal information online. If that’s not enough, she has gone on to posting videos about herself on her YouTube channel.

I’m not the only one who’s uneasy with the idea of young teens being allowed on social media. Nearly all of the comments to that Dlisted.com post were unanimous in agreeing with Fox regarding young teens and social media.

The issue of whether to allow kids under 16 to go online without little or no adult supervision has been around for many years—dating as far back as the early 2000’s when a 13-year-old girl named Katherine Tarbox left home to meet a man she knew from an online chat room only to find that the guy was a convicted pedophile who sexually assaulted her.

Several years later a young teenage girl began to post photos and videos of herself on MySpace and YouTube under the name Kiki Kannibal, which attracted numerous attention from older men and she became a victim of statutory rape when, at the tender age of 14, she began a sexual relationship with a much older man. In addition, as this Rolling Stone article documents, she became a target of cyberstalkers and cyberbullies.

Around the same time that Kiki Kannibal began posting photos and videos online, another teenage girl named Megan Meier committed suicide as a result of what happened to her when she was allowed to be online with little parental supervision. She was 13 when she started a friendship on MySpace with a boy who later turned out to be a fictional person whose account was created by a former friend and her mother as a “joke.” It quickly turned into something that the ex-friend, her mother, and other people who knew the mother and daughter used to cyberbully Megan.

Despite these cautionary tales surrounding Katherine Tarbox, Kiki Kannibal, and Megan Meier, there are far too many parents who allow kids under 16 to go on social media with little or no supervision and these kids are so vulnerable to experiencing the worst of adult impulses before they are fully mature enough to handle any negative feedback.

Not only did that 14-year-old girl’s aforementioned Instagram account have me feeling uneasy, a few months ago there was a 13-year-old boy who became a celebrity of sorts that made me feel equally queasy.

C.J. Pearson became an overnight sensation for a series of videos he posted on YouTube criticizing President Obama. He soon became the darling of the right wing activists, especially given the fact that he was an African American boy criticizing an African American president while spouting conservative views. While the media was gushing over that kid, I found myself thinking “Where are his parents and why are they letting him post YouTube videos unsupervised?”

C.J. Pearson has since announced that he has renounced his Republican views and is now supporting Bernie Sanders for president. While it’s nice to know that he has evolved in his thinking, I still think that it was wrong for his parents to allow him to post those YouTube videos in the first place. The kid would’ve been better off had he espoused his political views only to his friends and family in real life instead of posting them online on YouTube for the entire world to see.

In case you’re wondering, his political views have absolutely nothing to do with my uneasiness with the way that he was allowed to post videos of himself at a very young age with little or no parental supervision. I would feel the same way had he shared the exact same political beliefs as I do. It’s more about the fact that he was doing this as a 13-year-old boy than the political beliefs he espoused in his videos.

I’ve said and done stupid things myself when I was 13. The big difference is that the Internet as we know it wasn’t around at the time so I was able to make those mistakes without me or anyone else documenting it then posting it online to continue haunting me for decades. Even if C.J. Pearson takes those earlier YouTube videos criticizing President Obama offline, chances are that the same videos will be archived elsewhere on the Internet (such as other people’s YouTube accounts, other websites, other social media accounts, etc.) so he will have a very difficult time scrubbing the existence of those videos from the Internet. In other words, the stupid things C.J. Pearson said when he was 13 has been enshrined for all time.

Don’t believe me when I say that what you post on the Internet lasts forever? Well consider this. A few years ago a man named Chris Crocker gained fame when he posted a video titled “Leave Britney Alone” where he passionately defended Britney Spears when she was publicly going through severe mental health issues from around 2006-2008. He soon became famous himself and he was known as the Leave Britney Alone Guy for many years after posting that video. A few months ago Chris Crocker decided to delete his entire YouTube channel including the video that catapulted him to the public eye because he grew tired of the abuse he received from various people over the years. Despite that deletion, someone had managed to snag a copy of that video before Crocker deleted it and has re-uploaded it. And I’m sure that there are other copies of that video still floating around the Internet that had been uploaded by people other than Chris Crocker.

At least Chris Crocker was a young adult when he made that video. But if Chris Crocker has a hard time with scrubbing the Internet completely of that “Leave Britney Alone” video, you can imagine a young kid like C.J. Pearson will never be able to put those previous anti-Obama videos behind him.

This is why I think Megan Fox was spot on about her views regarding young teens and social media. I think 13 is too young to be hanging around anywhere online without parental supervision and I think the minimum age that one can become members of Facebook and other social media sites should be raised to at least 16 (although I personally prefer 17 or 18 but I’m willing to live with 16 as a compromise since that’s the age when teens can legally get a driver’s license).

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