Here’s a pretty uninformative and useless article about young kids and social networking. You can thank me later. It’s the usual mish-mosh of experts and pundits going back and forth about kids and computers/electronics, which has pretty much been in the same discussion rut for 20 years: ruinous or harmless, insidious or culturally realistic with benefits. Blah blah blah blah blah. The spin on it this time is focusing more on children using Facebook and MySpace, which is different than just hanging out playing games because of the open and interactive nature of those sites.

Do I have any brilliant insights to share with you on this? No, I just really hate hacked out, inconclusive, insubstantial journalism just to fill a website spot for a day. Heh. But I will tell you what I think anyway.

I don’t see a lot of benefits for children to have their own social networking accounts. Good god, do any of them need any more screen time, period? Jesus, go kick a ball or something, kids. MySpace is only good if your kid is really into music and bands, otherwise it is kind of low-rent and skuzzy. I say this as someone with two MySpace accounts and who has no interest in either seeing nor posting photos of debauched vodka-guzzling teen underwear parties. With Facebook, it just adds to the time-wasting, meaningless communication that passes for leisure time fun now. How many times can you text, AIM, Twitter, and Facebook about every last thing you think or do, and how many times can you bear to intake everyone else’s spew? I say this as a person with a Facebook account and as someone who recently updated their online status as “feeling ninja.” I understand the lameness of my actions, but to kids, it becomes normal. They say nothing and everyone else says nothing, over and over and over and over, until cogent expression is a lost art and becomes HARD WORK.

There are so very many other and better things to do, and it is frighteningly easy to get hooked into the culture of constant confession, with no insight or worth to speak of. It’s fun to see what your friends are up to and what they are thinking, but unless they are all scholars or Buddha or updating their work in stem-cell research, you aren’t really getting all that much out of the HOURS you can spend there. I would rather see kids having a variety of experiences, whether that’s reading all the marvelous and important books out there, creating some art, joining a sports team, taking the dog for a walk around the neighborhood, listening to music or performing it, traveling, or just spending time alone thinking without an endless stream of MafiaWars status updates to jar you out of your reverie.

I’ll come to a conclusion for you. Your little kid doesn’t need social networking that you would really need to constantly monitor anyway. Even teens should be encouraged to recognize the empty nature of it all, and that at the end of the day they are putting a lot into something and will have nothing to show for it but a long list of friend names on a screen. You can’t put that on a college application, and you can’t ever get that time back.