There are about 7 billion people in the world and 1 billion of those have a Facebook. Social media has become a necessity of sorts, allowing us to be connected to our friends and family. Chances are you have a Facebook and your mom and your grandma have one too. While you can’t help but giggle when your grandma asks you to add her on Facebook, it’s not so funny when your children want in on the action, too. The thought of your child’s premature exposure to inappropriate content on the Internet can be reason enough for you to say “No, you’re too young!”, but how young is too young for social media?
While the Internet is a big place, it’s no longer the infinite abyss of seedy chat rooms with anonymous souls wandering about. Social media has changed the Internet, and the anonymity that was once favored has been replaced with the desire to be known and credited for everything you say and do online. Your child doesn't see the Internet as a place full of strangers; he sees mom, dad, his classmates and even their favorite singer online. “Thus, a large part of this generation's social and emotional development is occurring while on the Internet and on cell phones,” says an article from Pediatrics Digest. Denying your children participation can lead to them feeling excluded. The article goes on to say that, “Engaging in various forms of social media is a routine activity that research has shown to benefit children and adolescents by enhancing communication, social connection, and even technical skills.”
The question remains, how young is too young for social media? While that judgement is ultimately left at the parent’s discretion, most social media sites have an age 13 minimum requirement to join. This is based on the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which protects the information of children under the age of 13. Whether you allow your child to become active on social media at 13 or 16, you can give yourself some peace of mind by implementing some of these tips:
Talk About It: Find out what social sites your child wants to join. Once you know, you can find out more about the sites and what their primary function are.
Read About It: Read the terms and conditions and become familiar with the privacy settings. While you may love to let your Twitter followers know where you’re shopping or dining you may not be comfortable with your child sharing that information with strangers.
Set Your Own Terms and Conditions: Allow your children to participate but don’t be afraid to set your own terms and conditions. Let your child know what is appropriate for them to post and share about themselves online and explain why certain things aren’t appropriate.
Check In Periodically: Just like you want to know who your child is hanging out with in real life you should also want to know who your child is interacting with online. Don’t embarrass your child by commenting on every single one of their status updates but do pay attention to who they’re talking to and what is being said.
Encourage In Real Life Socializing: Social media can be fun and informative but it’s not a substitute for socializing in real life. Let them have fun, explore, and interact with friends online but encourage them to do the same offline.