Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+—these can all be a parent’s worst nightmare. When your child becomes a teenager and begs you to get on social networking sites to connect with their friends you are left to decide if you want to allow them. When my son first begged me I said, "heck no!" as I imagined half naked, "fast" girls sending him inbox messages and me having to monitor him 24/7. According to CNN two surveys reported in 2009 by Pew Internet Research—of 700 and 935 teens, respectively—38 percent of respondents ages 12 to 14 said they had an online profile of some sort. Sixty-one percent of those in the study, ages 12 to 17, said they use social-networking sites to send messages to friends, and 42 percent said they do so every day.
So, for the next six months if I wanted to him to see pictures of his cousins or other family members I would have to log into my account and let him see it. Pretty soon this got tiresome and I decided that he was mature enough to be on some social media, under my strict supervision. After pondering which social media network he could be on, we finally decided that Facebook was the safest option for him.
So I followed these 4 simple steps to keep him safe on social media:
1. I created the account and kept the passwords. Using an email I rarely use, I created him a Facebook account. Since it’s tied to an email of mine, the password can’t be changed without my knowledge AND I can see exactly what he’s doing on Facebook. There’s not even a chance for anything shady to happened because I read every comment, status update, every picture.
2. I don't allow him to add (or accept) anyone he doesn't know. Before me allowing him to actually join a network, I made sure to lecture him about not adding anyone he did not know personally. Every friend request, I look (before he even knows about it) and I see if they are the same age as he is. If it’s a totally random friend request, I delete the request before he even sees it. Call me Detective Mom.
3. He can't use his real name. Instead of putting his real name on Facebook,, I allowed him to use an alias. I’m not comfortable letting people online know his real name—whether they go to school with him or not. Instead, I like for his profile to be anonymous. Plus, this helps with confusion since my son and my husband have the exact same name.
4. I check his account at least once a week. I make it a point to go online and check out his profile frequently.
We've been working with this account for the past couple of months and so far I haven’t had to snatch his profile yet or punish him for behaving badly online.
Do you allow your children to have online profiles on social networking sites?
Franchesca Lane-Warren is a blogger, freelance writer and business owner behind the widely popular BossyGirl in the City blog. Follow her on Twitter @bossygirl1980 for more tidbits on how she sees motherhood, natural hair, running and life- in general.