Monday, September 26, 2011

Mark Zuckerberg Needs Some Kids!

Originally posted by Tribune Media Services

The last time I Googled Mark Zuckerberg, he was a 27-year-old billionaire who invented Facebook.

Prior to that he was a 26-year-old billionaire who invented Facebook.

The only thing changing in Zuckerberg's life these days is the amount of money he accumulates with his creation. Oh, sure, he pops up in the occasional news story such as the one involving a Northern Ireland dad who is suing Facebook because his 12-year-old daughter posted sexually explicit photos of herself on the site. Facebook, the dad contends, doesn't enforce its policy of forbidding users to establish accounts until they reach the ripe old age of . . . 13. That policy was actually the result of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. Zuckerberg has hinted that he might try to challenge the rule. Younger children, he argued, should be allowed to use Facebook for "educational purposes."

It's easy to see why Zuckerberg made that statement: He doesn't have children of his own. At least, I don't think he does. Hard to believe, but he hasn't updated his Facebook page since January. I'm pretty certain that siring an offspring would at least merit a post. And a photo.

I think I speak for all parents when I say Zuckerberg needs to experience firsthand why we agonize over when to let our own children explore Facebook. Which is exactly why I'm going to launch a campaign: MARK ZUCKERBERG NEEDS SOME KIDS. And I'm going to use Facebook.

I will create a simple Facebook page and ask my 357 friends to "like" it. Then I will invite them all to an event, created via Facebook, entitled, "Drop Your Kids Off at Mark Zuckerberg's House For a Week." Most billionaires have at least a couple spare bedrooms, don't they?

I will get the ball rolling by letting my daughters stay with Zuckerberg. One is 14 and a legal Facebook member. Before letting her join, her mother and I warned her that we would be closely monitoring her activity. We friended her, memorized her password, turned off her instant personalization feature and disabled apps such as AreYouInterested? -- which, according to Facebook, "makes it virtually effortless to meet potential dates instantly." So far, she has behaved responsibly. Still, we can't always control the posts from her 600-plus friends, some of whom freely drop f-bombs, question their classmates' sexual orientation online and wonder if anyone will be bringing alcohol to the party. Maybe Zuckerberg has some suggestions.

He will have a bigger problem dealing with my 9 year old. She's too young for Facebook, but somehow, a few of her 9-year-old friends have established accounts. One even tried to friend me. Isn't that cute? A 9-year-old girl wants to be friends with a 49-year-old man! It's only a matter of time before my daughter begins pestering me for an account. I'll let Zuckerberg deal with that when he tucks her in at night and brushes her pigtails the next morning.

Once a few kids get dropped off at Mr. Z's home, others will certainly follow. I know this because the Facebook Places app helps users broadcast exactly where they are. Word travels fast via social networks; just ask shopkeepers in England.

My wife and I weren't worried about British looters when we agreed to host a graduation party for our daughter. However, we did tell her that, under no circumstances, could she promote the event via Facebook. As a result, we had a nice quiet gathering of about 40 kids, all of whom we recognized. Other parents weren't so lucky; one party we attended contained over 100 eighth-grade grads, thanks primarily to Facebook. At one point, the homeowner gazed out at his backyard, sighed and said, "Who ARE these kids?"

Eventually my Facebook friends and I will descend on Zuckerberg's home, collect our children and restore sanity to his life. Maybe he will use the subsequent quiet time to rethink Facebook's age policy. If he needs additional input, there's a dad in Northern Ireland who may have some ideas.

Zuckerberg should send him a friend request first.

(Greg Schwem is a stand-up comedian and author of "Text Me If You're Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad," available at

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