Too Young for Facebook?

As a social marketer by profession, I counsel on the virtues of Facebook to many different people and companies. As a parent, I’m now faced with my oldest child (age 12) pleading for his own Facebook account.

My wife and I have decided that the answer, for the foreseeable future, is no. There were arguments for (from him) and against (from us), but ultimately the decision is ours. Since we do our best to reason with our children, I knew I had to come armed with a good argument for our position. For the sake of others on the fence when it comes to social media usage for children, I figured I’d share some of the research and counsel in this post.

The simplest and most direct case against this is Facebook’s terms of use. They clearly state that you should not create a Facebook profile if you are under 13. However, a recent study from New York University showed that 55% of parents of 12-year-olds say their child has a Facebook account. What’s more, 76% of those parents said that they helped create the account for their children. So is this age restriction an arbitrary, self-imposed rule from Facebook? No. The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) dictates that online services employ the 13-and-over age restriction. As simple as that argument is, that’s the one that seemed to resonate most with our son. He simply didn’t want to break the rules.

The next argument we considered was one of safety. Allowing social media access to those too young to properly deal with it opens them to possible exposure to any number of dangers: pornography, profanity, violence, and – most disturbing – cyber-bullying. The tragic deaths of Megan Meier and Ryan Halligan have taught us that bullying takes on a more dangerous and public tone when it happens online. In fact, this was the subject of this episode of Glee.

The final argument is one that is least tangible or evident. It’s the future. These children who create and use Facebook accounts are leaving a digital footprint of their lives – the good, the bad, and the ugly. This footprint will most likely be checked by prospective colleges and later, employers. A quarter of U.S. colleges and half of corporate HR departments currently do this, and that practice will only increase. With all due respect to my 12-year-old, he and his friends can be idiots (no offense to actual idiots), and that idiocy will be laid out like a résumé from hell a decade from now.

All this adds up to him waiting for – and griping about – a Facebook account that must wait for now. And I suppose I should present his counter-argument ... that timeless classic, “But all my friends have it.


Support Movember. Buy My Embarrassing Story!

It's another November, which means I am once again growing a moustache (okay, a goatee for now) in support of Movember. In case you're not aware, Movember is the social media movement, which has men growing out their lip fur in support of prostate cancer.

This is my third year participating in Movember, and this year, I was looking for a way to boost the donations to such a worthy cause. That said, I'm offering up a tale for sale.

The offer: If I raise $1,000 for Movember, I will publicly recount my rather embarrassing story of when I had my prostate checked. Only my immediate family knows this funny and embarrassing story, and now I'm willing to sell it for a good cause.

If I've piqued your interest, and you have $5 or $10 to spare for a good cause, you can donate here to buy my story! Just click "Donate to me."


Facebook Lists and Google Plus Circles

This week Facebook unveiled an improved version of their "Friend Lists." In Google parlance, this is the same as "Circles." Facebook obviously felt they needed to respond to the warm reception Google Plus received with their Circles.

While Facebook did make significant improvements to how you manage your Lists, it's still not as visual or elegant as Google Plus's Circles. With Circles, you can drag-and-drop your friends right into various categories. And while hovering over the icon of any Google Plus friend, you can assign them to Circles right away -- a very elegant management system.

Facebook does, however, hold the edge in automating the way friend management works. Facebook makes use of the way you interact with Facebook to suggest various friends into different categories (close friends, acquaintances, etc.). They call this method "Smart Lists." It's great in theory, but the people I interact with most on Facebook aren't always my friends, per se. With Circles, assigning friends is still a manual process. I'm not saying that one is better the other -- it will come down to a personal choice. If you're the type of person who wants total control over your friend management, then Circles is for you. If you want help with the process, then go with Lists.

A downside to using the new version of Lists, however, is that most Facebook users will be doing this after the fact. You'll need to spend a few hours going through your hundreds of Facebook friends to add them to one List or another. At least with Circles, the platform was new, so it was easier to add friends to Circles as you were adding then to Google Plus.

I'll continue to use both, but I'd like to see Facebook eventually get more of a visual or drag-and-drop interface.


More "Enhancements" to Hulu

Yes, "enhancements" was intended to be sarcastic. The New York Times reported today that the Fox network will begin limiting next-day availability of their shows on Hulu to subscribers of cable and satellite providers. That means, for those thousands of Americans who have "cut the cord" of cable because of alternatives to paid television, they will have to wait eight days -- yep, you heard right -- EIGHT days to watch a new episode of a Fox show on Hulu.

Fox, a partner in the Hulu venture, is attempting to appease cable and satellite providers who fear alternative delivery methods of network television (Hulu, Netflix, AppleTV, Vudu, et al) will continue to eat away at their subscriber base. The quote I love is from a Fox marketing executive who said that this is meant to “enhance the value of pay television to subscribers.” By handcuffing people to their cable provider?

It is clear that Fox -- and ABC network (another Hulu partner) is considering this too -- is following the money. They would rather satisfy the larger, yet declining, income source of cable and satellite providers than the smaller, yet increasing, income source of on-demand streaming television.

Hulu was an early success. Consumers caught on and loved it. However, the continued tinkering of Hulu will turn off consumers who value Hulu because of its simplicity and content availability. Mess with either of those, and it will fail. I urge the TV networks to remember the old axiom, "The customer is always right."


ADA & Technology

Here at the American Diabetes Association's 71st Scientific Sessions conference in San Diego, I'm amazed at the level of technology embraced by the diabetes community. And that is in two forms.

First, the technology behind the medicine was impressive. The glucose level meters and delivery methods of insulin seem to be moving ever-faster to that of high-tech. I was impressed to learn last night at Miriam Tucker's tweetup that industry is moving closer to developing a system whereby the continuous glucose sensors would "talk" to the insulin pumps, thereby acting like an artificial pancreas of sorts.

Second, the level of social media (Twitter in particular) activity at the conference has been impressive. Some of the more prolific Tweeters make it seem like you're sitting in the sessions. And some, like @iam_spartacus, add a good dose of humor into an otherwise dry subject.

It was also a pleasure to meet some of the social media folks in the diabetes community at that tweetup last night. Such passion and camaraderie among them. Folks like Paul BoidyElizabeth Georgescu, Allison BlassDavid EdelmanSunnie Southern, and Dan Hurley.

[Disclosure: I work for an agency that works for a pharma company that makes insulin. My opinions are my own.]