When Should Your Child Join Social Sites?

Sometimes I wish there was a comprehensive handbook given to every parent when they leave the hospital with their new bundle. A real ‘how-to’ guide that provided concrete, black and white rules that you simply needed to implement to have a stress free experience with your child. How I wish!!

But instead we have to make-up our own rules, work super hard to uphold them and then quite often change them.

And doesn’t parenting and social media fit into this category!

Most of us are aware that Facebook requires users to be 13 in order to be eligible to sign up. Instagram requires its followers to be at least 13 before they can create an account. And Snapchat is not intended for children under the age of 13 and requires minors to have permission from a parent before using the network.

Whilst many parents are committed to keeping their children off social media until they have reached the legal age, research launched by McAfee last month entitled Tweens, Teens and Technology shows that in fact 67% of our tweens (8-12 year olds) are embracing social media. And despite the eligibility age of 13 for Facebook, 1 in 4 are already using it with 95% of their parents providing approval.

So, what do we do? Should we allow our tweens on social media?

Here are my thoughts.

  • If your kids are under 13, encourage them to join tween friendly social networks such as Club Penguin, Moshi Monsters or Pop Tropica. These well managed sites are a great way for kids to learn how to be a good digital citizen and put their toe in the water before they enter the big league.
  • Some parents of tweens believe that falsifying a child’s age to create a Facebook or Instagram account does not really provide the right example.  In fact, it could possibly teach our kids that rules do not apply to them.
  • Whilst I am committed to upholding the age restriction with my younger children, I believe that parents know their children best. If parents believe their child has the intellectual and emotional maturity to handle Facebook or Instagram, then I respect their decision. I would however encourage parents of tweens to position this as a ‘joint account’ with their children, with passwords set and managed by the parent.
  • If you think your tween is going to set up a Facebook account regardless of your opinion, then you need to have a rethink. It is far better for you to help your tween set up a Facebook or Instagram account with some hot tips from an experienced user (yourself) and strong privacy settings than let them muddle through and expose themselves to unnecessary risks.

At the end of the day, you need to decide what works best for your family and your child. So, make the rules but don’t stress – because you can always change them. That is the best thing about being the parent!

Till next time,

Alex x

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