I just had this convo with my 10yo. He had gotten into the little game sites and such online (like Club Penguin) and came to me with a new one. Our house rules state that the sites have to be checked out before he goes on them, so definite thumbs up for him there.
Anyhow, the game was NOT appropriate! Not only was it a MMORPG, but it was not meant for children and was not moderated well. He was crushed, to say the least and tried every con in the book:
-but all my friends get to play!
-I won't do anything bad!
-I'll be left out and I won't have any friends!
-You don't trust me!
So he got my answers:
-I love you, and I will help you stay safe online.
-I do trust you; I don't trust the rest of the players
-it's hard not to be able to join in. I understand that.
I don't think the solution lies with outright banning networking sites, just being selective and appropriate to the age. MMORPGs are not okay for a 10yo, for example.
I do think facebook, myspace, etc, are okay for a teen.....with ground rules. Ours would be that I have to know the password, the page has to be set to private, no identifying info/pics/etc., and only accept as 'friends' people he knows. Going around the rules would result in outright banning of the sites and a babysitter. Safety's not something we play around with here.