Afterword

ThimphuTech was the first technology blog in Bhutan. We started writing it in 2009, just as broadband and mobile internet started to take off. (Although internet in Bhutan was launched in 1999, it was either super-slow or super-expensive, and was only used by a selected few).

In the blog, we wrote about technology and food, but also about plenty of other stuff. The blog became popular and influential in Bhutan. A companion bi-weekly column -- Ask Boaz -- was published for many years in the Kuensel, Bhutan's national newspaper. (The complete Kuensel columns are available as an ebook, Blogging with Dragons).

We stopped updating the blog when we left Bhutan in 2014, but the information within the posts can still prove useful, and thus we decided to keep it online.

We thank all our readers.
Tashi Delek,
Boaz & Galit.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Age limit on Facebook (K2 #34)

Question of the Week My daughter wants to have a Facebook account like many of her friends. She is only 11 years old and I heard this can be dangerous. Should I let her?
-- M. C., MoLHR
Dear M. C.,

Facebook requires users to be at least 13 years old. But Facebook has no way of enforcing it. So to open an account, your daughter will basically need to lie about her age. That hasn't stopped millions of under-13 kids to create accounts, but it's something you need to think about. If you do decide to let your daughter use Facebook, it is a good idea to talk to her about the risks involved. And indeed, the risks are serious. I'll mention three main risks, but there are more.

First, when you use Facebook, you expose yourself to other Facebook users around the world. Some of these users might take advantage of the information that they have about a young child. For example, it might be an adult pretending to be her friend, arranging a dangerous offline rendezvous. But it can also be a classmate leaving a nasty comment on your daughter's photo that she uploaded, which is an example of cyber-bullying. Facebook users therefore must be very careful about what they post and who they share it with. Controlling this exposure can be done using Facebook's privacy settings, but it is complicated.

Second, spending too much time on Facebook was found to be related to mental problems, including narcissism and depression. On Facebook, we tend to focus on representing ourselves in a positive way. Many young (and also not-so-young) people can become overly concerned with how they appear to their Facebook friends. An excessive preoccupation with body image, especially at an early age, is unhealthy. In addition, when you log into Facebook, the first thing you see is the total bliss and fun lives of your Facebook friends. Of course this isn't true, but people don't like to share the lesser sides of human existence... Being exposed to this endless “we’re all happy and having a great time” stream causes many people to start feeling that they “can't keep up”, even causing depression. This phenomena is called FOMO - Fear Of Missing Out.

Third, Facebook makes it too easy for your daughter to be exposed to material which is not appropriate to her age, including photos, videos and inappropriate language that are often posted by “friends”.

There are other risks and you can learn more at goo.gl/mwd7T. If you do let your daughter open a Facebook account, my advice is to sit down with her and explain the risks involved. Some parents decide to become Facebook "friends" of their children, so they can keep an eye on their activity. You know your daughter best, so you can decide if that's a good idea. Also, in some homes, the computer is placed in the living room, so that when your daughter uses Facebook, a responsible adult can keep an eye.

Readers are encouraged to submit technology-related questions to boaz@thimphutech.com