Family Matters

Just Say No to Facebook: A Dad Pays His Daughter to Stop the Social-Media Madness

Do some kids need a break from Facebook?

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As a mom, controlling how much presence my kids have online is a daily concern — and challenge. When he was 8 years old, I didn’t want my son on Facebook, didn’t want him to have his own cell phone — the most popular age at which U.S. kids get one is 12 — and didn’t want him to have his own e-mail address. I realize it’s inevitable, but as the mom, I get to control when it happens. Two years later, he’s just as cut off from the digital world as he was. I simply can’t see how spending more time in a virtual world instead of exploring the real one around him will contribute positively to his childhood.

Apparently, I’m not the only parent who feels like that — although I’m not certain I’m willing to pay cash for my convictions as Paul Baier, a father in Boston, intends to do.

Baier and his 14-year-old daughter inked a deal that calls on her to abstain from Facebook from Feb. 4 to June 26. In return, he’ll pay her $50 if she can stay off through April 15 and $150 more if she makes it to the end of June. Nor is this a simple time-out: Dad, who describes himself as vice president of sustainability consulting and research at Groom Energy Solutions, plans to deactivate Rachel’s account.

In the contract, Baier’s daughter is delightfully vague in her description of how she’ll use her riches. The document posted on her father’s blog states: “I plan to use the money for the following purpose: stuff.”

What’s more, the impetus behind their daddy-daughter contract is the daughter, who apparently came up with the idea.

(MORE: Should Kids Under 13 Be on Facebook?)

Reaction on Baier’s blog has been mixed. Some accuse him of poor parenting, others praise him and hope that other moms and dads will follow suit. One person, Alisha Burkett, wondered: “What’s stopping her from opening another account in a different name and still getting the money? Just curious …”

Good point. The contract makes no mention of what is supposed to happen come July.

But even if Baier’s daughter should be unable to resist the pull of the world’s largest social-networking site, the five-month hiatus is an opportunity to regroup.

“This dad took the bull by the horns and created a win-win here,” says Dr. Gwenn O’Keeffe, a pediatrician outside Boston who is the author of CyberSafe, about protecting kids online. “It gives her the break from Facebook that she’s asking for, so that when she goes back on, it’s a time to sit down with her and ask, What was it that made you need a break?”

O’Keeffe, who has two girls ages 15 and 18, says her daughters thought that Facebook was overwhelming when they were younger. “They found it big and chaotic and a lot of their friends did too,” says O’Keeffe. “If it was just too much for her, then it’s an opportunity for the father to help her manage it better. There has got to be a reason that she felt she needs to go off it.”

Was she being cyberbullied? Did she feel excluded? Kids need guidance navigating social media — when should they comment and when should they ignore? What’s the appropriate tone to use? And in what situations should they involve an adult? In fact, says O’Keeffe, it’s a good idea for all parents to regularly check in with their Facebooking progeny.

“I have a niece who just doesn’t have an account because she’s seen so many kids addicted that has chosen to stay off it,” says O’Keeffe. Like Baier’s daughter, she’s not unique in making that move: 61% of Facebookers say they’ve taken a break of at least a few weeks from the site and more than a quarter say they plan to waste, er, spend less time on the site this year, according to data from the Pew Research Center.

MORE: Why Facebook Makes You Feel Bad About Yourself

106 comments
LizSzabo
LizSzabo

RT @TIMEHealthland: A dad is paying his daughter $200 to quit Facebook. Would you do the same? | http://t.co/2d3KWpBm #parenting

Garik_Avetisyan
Garik_Avetisyan

@TIME i quitted facebook 3 months ago,twitter is better:)))

sailajasp
sailajasp

@heyyparth so sweet quit na :-)

JuneGin
JuneGin

@TIMEHealthland I would just disable the wifi!

winlee__
winlee__

@deewoo5 strange way to share this news ;)

ElTipoDeIT
ElTipoDeIT

Facebook que haga su contraoferta -> “@MiteNishio: Padre pagará a su hija si logra no usa Facebook por 4 meses. http://t.co/t0P8MCWQ

Joezylla
Joezylla

@clevergrrly I know you would've taken that as easy money

Jefcat
Jefcat

@TIME it's sad he had to bribe his daughter. What happened to kids obeying their parents? Gods commandment #5

nikavt
nikavt

I created a Facebook account 7 years ago when a class I was in used it to keep track of what everyone was doing on a semester abroad.  I probably had 25+ "friends," including some organizations, but I hardly ever went to the site.  I did get bombarded with friend requests from people I didn't know, emails telling me I should log on for exciting news, emails telling me Facebook was sorry I was having trouble with my account -- I wasn't, I just couldn't stand all the junk that people posted, all the inane conversations.  So as one of my New Year's resolutions, I deactivated my account.  It's been lovely!  

mattaphy
mattaphy

@TIME dont even have a facebook but who wouldnt....

j.seese24
j.seese24

People like Bill Gates and even Mark Zuckerberg himself probably wish their parents wouldn't have let them explore and create these virtual worlds as well. We get it, your generation was soooo much better and you guys did everything correct. Instead of restricting children, educate your damn self and guide your child...be a real parent instead of learning how to just tell them no.


fouss_k
fouss_k

“@TIME: Dad pays daughter to quit Facebook. Would you stop updating for cash? | http://t.co/r4ZjoH66” #kpakpatoya #civ2010 #ci225

prutha94
prutha94

@deewoo5 yes...unnie!!! btw....unnie...how are you?? how was your lunar new year?!! ^^

MeikoYamaguchi_
MeikoYamaguchi_

@deewoo5 Hello dear Deanna ^^ how are u? ^^ I hope you're well. God bless you.

P_Fig93
P_Fig93

@deewoo5 parents should keep a limitation. Tsk Tsk. For example I couldn't have fbk till I was 16 yrsold

lamysmile
lamysmile

These children haven't lived our lives when we were kids and this virtual world is all they know. They do need guidance to understand the world around them better and that doesn't need a bribe. I guess this daughter wanted to quit FB but just needed a push. :-)

emiliamastw
emiliamastw

@TIME what kids need is advise while entering the social net. We can't deny new ways of communication, we should participate! #socialmedia

hash62
hash62

Wish sum1 could've pd me when I quit RT @TIME: Dad pays daughter to quit Facebook. Would you stop updating for cash? | http://t.co/MKHEBcmq

johnnysAngel30
johnnysAngel30

@TIME umm.. N my day the parents said "STOP!" & that was end of story- u stopped or got punished. I only got paid 2 do chores! Ridiculous!

raeesmuqthar
raeesmuqthar

Facebook has been very well known for wasting a lot of peoples time, but how about an alternative that could enhance productivity, would that gain much traction as facebook did ?

Urvoicethoughts
Urvoicethoughts

@TIME we all need a break from #facebook to try to regroup- just like in "real life." Plus, studying has be a priority for children.…

EuoeaoK
EuoeaoK

@TIME Wow, this is what I call bad parenting. Really? Pay your kid NOT to be on Facebook? TAKE HER LAPTOP AWAY IF ITS A PROBLEM!

ThreeYards
ThreeYards

@TIME I love breaking news on Twitter before you do.

seademon
seademon

Just take the damned PC away, stupid parents! RT @TIME: Just say no to Facebook: Dad pays daughter to quit the social network

AneelaK_90
AneelaK_90

@TIME lol! that's awesome! I wish my dad did the same! I had it to do it for free!

Love_Bandaid
Love_Bandaid

@mithilah @time. Good! Fb was created for 18+ University students, and it should stay that way!!!

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

I appreciate the coverage devoted to this story by TIME.

However, I really must wonder what's going through Gwenn O'Keefe's (the cited pediatrician) mind when she pondered the potential motivations.

Having been a teacher of the daughter's age group, I will posit that the young lady figured out a way to "game the system."  My guess is that the father did not consider just how 'out-gamed' he was, and did not consider how the daughter was holding the upper hand in the negotiations.

prasadgc
prasadgc

Weird. I would want my child to be net-savvy to avoid falling behind his/her peers. Social networking is not a wasteful fad. It's how life will be lived in the years to come. Why would you withhold those skills from your child?

heyyparth
heyyparth

@sailajasp then what will you do :)

clevergrrly
clevergrrly

@Joezylla Hells ya. Don't need no stinking social media. Needs me some new shoes, though. LOL

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

@prasadgc 

It was the daughter who originally thought of the contract.  The father withheld nothing.

sailajasp
sailajasp

@heyyparth I will follow you on phone:-)

Joezylla
Joezylla

@clevergrrly haha always gift,yourself