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  • Ginny Pitcher Facebook

    Ginny Pitcher | Monday, March 28, 2011 28 Comments

    Is An 8-year-old Tweeting Too Young? One Mother’s Confession.

    A recent exchange between my eight-year-old son, Trey, and me went something like this:

    Trey: “Can I get a cell phone?”
    Me: “No.”

    Trey: “Can I take the money from my bank account to buy a Nerf gun?”
    Me: “No.”

    Trey: “Can I watch Dawn of the Waking Dead?”
    Me: “No.”

    Trey:  “Can I Tweet?”
    Me: “Yes!”

    For better or worse, Trey has grown up in a social media-obsessed household. We’ve spent countless hours pouring over Facebook friends’ photo albums, as I exhaustively explain who each person is and how I know them. I’ve heard him gasp in horror as I take one hand off the wheel to check in on Foursquare at the I-90/Weston tolls (of which I proudly can claim Mayorship). And, I’ve been on the receiving end of several lectures from Trey on what I can or can’t share on Twitter about his quirky “take on life” or jaw-dropping, and sometimes just plain wrong, quotes and phrases.

    So, naturally, I should have expected Trey to eventually want to jump in the social media pool. More importantly, his argument to be on Twitter was pretty sound. He wanted to follow and Tweet at his favorite athletes so he could learn how to become a better football player.

    The first step was to secure a handle. After trying every incarnation of his name only to find it was taken, we settled on a name I called him anyway: @troublebrown. With that, we set up his bio and picked his picture. We talked long and hard about making sure that he clearly presented himself as a kid. First of all, as a marketer, I knew that if he was going to be reaching out to athletes, he would be more likely to get responses if he identified himself as a young fan. And, as a parent, I wanted to make sure that any communication to and from his account was age appropriate.

    The next step was letting Trey follow his heroes. Thankfully, this bought me a whole afternoon of “me” time as he scoured Twitter. While he mostly picked football players, like Troy Polamalu (@tpolamalu) and Patrick Willis (@PatrickWillis52), he also picked some interesting ones. Who knew he liked Pink (@Pink)? And, proving that he really was paying attention in school, he patriotically followed President Obama (@BarackObama).

    With his follows in order, it was time for Trey to drop his first Tweet.

    “@PatrickWillis52 How does it feel when you get an interception or a fumble recovery?”

    With a few more Tweets sent, he headed off to bed that night — obsessing on all things Twitter.

    And then around 1 a.m. that night, a little chirp went out that would make one boy a Twitterholic for life.

    “@troublebrown awesome man”

    And so it goes. Patrick Willis, linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers, lived up to one boy’s dream and found a fan for life in me. Amazingly enough, they actually exchanged a few Tweets back and forth the next day. Patrick even gave Trey some sage advice about Pop Warner, “…just keep it fun lil man. That’s one of the most important things u can do.”

    Allowing Trey to go on Twitter was a gamble. Having sat in the stands of countless sporting events listening to mothers and fathers gripe about the dangers of social media, I knew I might be setting myself up for criticism. But when it comes down to it, I really can’t think of a more accessible or content-rich platform than Twitter. In one steady stream he can follow and interact with things that interest him – sports, music, friends, whatever.

    And, quite frankly, it’s not such a bad thing for Trey to understand and harness the power of social media at such a young age. If anything, he’s learning to say it succinctly and thoughtfully in 140 characters or less.

    What do you think? Is eight too young to be on Twitter?

  • Caroline

    I think the way you are doing it sounds very responsible. I don't believe an eight-year-old should ever be using the internet or a computer without parental supervision (there are a lot of creeps out there), so I think it's great that you're supervising him as he explores Twitter. As an added bonus, since you're the one teaching him about social media tools, you likely (hopefully) won't have to worry about him getting into trouble on the Internet the way a lot of kids do – it sounds like his progression through social networking will be in a responsible and informed way.

    This generation of kids is the first one really being raised with Facebook, Twitter, etc. all around them, so it is interesting to think about when they should become involved in the social media world.

  • Michelle

    As long as you can monitor he's interactions, then I don't think 8 is too young at all. I absolutely love the fact the NFL player interacted with Trey. What a cool story for him to share with his peeps at school!

  • http://twitter.com/RedHeadMeag Meagan Ellis

    I think this showcases exactly what makes Twitter so wonderful – in what other space online could Trey get a response from a celebrity athlete? What a wonderful experience for him to have as a child, and it couldn't have happened without Twitter. I think this is just so, so great!!!

  • Ginny

    That's one rule we definitely have: No Tweeting unless I'm around. That way I can make sure he's coloring within the lines!

  • http://twitter.com/ginnypitcher ginnypitcher

    It's true, kids today are exposed to all kinds of social media. Allowing them to participate and experience all the positive aspects of it is important to establishing good social habits! Hopefully Trey will think twice before posting that picture of himself swallowing the fish at the frat house when he's 20!

  • http://twitter.com/ginnypitcher ginnypitcher

    Agreed Meagan! It let's him see that not all athletes are selfish, money-focused individuals. There are real professional athletes that care about their fans :)

  • Kendyll

    I think it's great Trey is using Twitter (under your supervision), and it's awesome that he is hearing back from his favorite athletes! Social media tools like Twitter and Facebook are used by all ages, and with a pro like yourself to learn from it must be the most fun!

  • Holly

    This is great! I laughed out loud at your opening comments! He is going to be way ahead of his peers when it comes to be social media savvy and I bet you are now known as the “cool mom”!

  • Deirdre

    Ginny, great post. I feel as long as you are monitoring his interactions, no harm/no foul (that's a little sports humor, get it?) In fact, I think it's safer than letting an 8 year old have a Facebook or MySpace account – I bet either of those would take far more mom patrolling than Twitter. :)

  • http://twitter.com/ginnypitcher ginnypitcher

    Thanks Deirdre. I think that with anything new — whether it's the first time you let your child ride his/her bike around the neighborhood or let them surf the net — early supervision is the key to good behaviors!

  • http://twitter.com/ginnypitcher ginnypitcher

    Thanks Deirdre. I think that with anything new — whether it's the first time you let your child ride his/her bike around the neighborhood or let them surf the net — early supervision is the key to good behaviors!

  • http://twitter.com/ginnypitcher ginnypitcher

    Laughing when it comes to Trey is part of every day life in my house! I hope he's savvy and can turn it into something great when he's older :)

  • http://twitter.com/ginnypitcher ginnypitcher

    Laughing when it comes to Trey is part of every day life in my house! I hope he's savvy and can turn it into something great when he's older :)

  • http://twitter.com/ginnypitcher ginnypitcher

    Laughing when it comes to Trey is part of every day life in my house! I hope he's savvy and can turn it into something great when he's older :)

  • http://twitter.com/ginnypitcher ginnypitcher

    Thankd Kendyll! There is nothing better than seeing your child's eyes light up when he realizes that someone he admires is actually listening. Now if he would only listen to me….

  • http://twitter.com/ginnypitcher ginnypitcher

    Thankd Kendyll! There is nothing better than seeing your child's eyes light up when he realizes that someone he admires is actually listening. Now if he would only listen to me….

  • http://twitter.com/ginnypitcher ginnypitcher

    Thankd Kendyll! There is nothing better than seeing your child's eyes light up when he realizes that someone he admires is actually listening. Now if he would only listen to me….

  • Dianemoore

    Absolutely not to young. Now I think 8 is too young to watch half of the shows on television (including Nick and Disney) and definetely 8 is too young to play those video games. I am a grandmother who does not let her grandchildren watch television when they come to her house, and does not allow them to bring thier video games; however I do allow them to communicate with thier friends through facebook, read and play games. I will see if they “twitter”, when I come up north to visit this summer. Very interesting story, Ginny. It certainly put a smile on my face. Perhaps I should learn to “twitter”….I know how excited and star struck I am when a singer accepts me as a friend on F/B, I can just picture Trey's face when a football hero twitters back. HUGS to you all.

  • Ljtosti

    What a great message to Trey that you listened to him, discussed all options and made the decison (great decision at that) to allow him to enter this Twitter world. What I got from your blog was that all too often we make judgements about a world we do not know much about, this is our world and educating our children is the most important job. Now lets get the other generation on board and teach them not to be afraid of social media. My 73 yr. old Mom and Dad added texting to their phone's to keep in touch with their grandchildren.

  • http://twitter.com/ginnypitcher ginnypitcher

    Go for it Diane! You'll love it…I'm sure!!

  • http://twitter.com/ginnypitcher ginnypitcher

    You are so right! Too often, I think it's easy to be a nay-sayer and shoot something down before experiencing it. Social media is changing the way we can all stay in touch and communicate. To bury one's head in the sand, isn't going to make it go away. I like to think Trey is learning how to use it in a positive and healthy way. Total props to your Mom and Dad! Love it!!

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