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Kids and Social Media

At what age is it okay for kids to have a Facebook account? Twitter? MySpace?

I won't let my 12-year-old have a Facebook account. My son has asked to have an account at least three times and I have said no because:

1)  When you "accept a friend request" from someone with a logo as a profile picture because you "like" that logo, it does not mean that you know the person who is behind it.

2) When you "friend" someone who you think you know and trust, it does not mean that you know and trust who they are linked to and, depending on privacy settings, those acquaintances might be able to see your information, too.

3) In my opinion, social maturity takes practice and real life experiences to grow and learn from. You cannot learn relationship skills, communication skills or recognize the nuances of communication such as eye contact and body language through social media.

An article in WebMD Health News in March discussed benefits and risks of kids and social networking after a report entitled, "“The Impact of Social Media Use on Children, Adolescents and Families,” from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) was released. The article says social media can be a means of nurturing friendships and community engagement, but also notes cyberbullying, anxiety, and depression are a few of the negative consequences that can result.

According to a news release, the new AAP guidelines include recommendations for pediatricians to help families navigate the social media landscape, including:

  • Advise parents to talk to children and adolescents about their online use and the specific issues that today’s online kids face, such as cyberbullying, sexting, and difficulty managing their time.
  • Advise parents to work on their own “participation gap” in their homes by becoming better educated about the many technologies their children are using.
  • Discuss with families the need for a family online-use plan, with an emphasis on citizenship and healthy behavior.
  • Discuss with parents the importance of supervising online activities via active participation and communication, not just via monitoring software.

Do you think social media hinders or helps kids develop communication skills? I know that "everyone is doing it," but is that the right reason to let a child participate? What age is acceptable for kids to begin using social media?  Should parents monitor their online activities?  How?

David July 27, 2011 at 06:31 PM
We felt the same way about letting our kids have a facebook account... But we eventually gave in and started monitoring their accounts daily. It helped us talk to them about appropriate posts. We then found a very reasonably priced Facebook monitoring service called Social Web Watch (www.socialwebwatch.com). Its a great service and we would recommend it to every parent.
Ishita Roy July 28, 2011 at 05:07 AM
Well..this is a very serious issue. We have also written an article on the same line. You can read it here----> http://www.socialf5.com/blog/2011/07/beware-parents-are-watching/
Andrea Williams July 28, 2011 at 02:01 PM
These are great tools to help us to keep our kids safe! Thank you for sharing!
Stephenie Ochoa July 28, 2011 at 02:17 PM
Once a child reaches the legal age (per whatever User Acceptance Policy for the social networking site) its inevitable they will join the majority usually whether from home or from a friend's house online. The technology is such that although we may give our blessing to sign up, it may just be that they have already entered the digitally social world. There are products and filters out there to help with monitoring and this may just be the best route as it satisfies both needs, the need for the children to participate in the networking and parents' need to watch over their offspring. A company out of the Dallas metroplex area called Image Vision Labs has a new product coming out called EyeGuardian that beats just about anything out there as far as monitoring Facebook accounts goes. Its soon to be launched and I think parents will be able to breathe that breath of fresh air they have been looking for with this social media explosion. Check them out, keep your eyes on them and give it a try when it's launched. www.imagevisionlabs.com or ImageVision on Facebook.
Victoria Kempf, Internet Safety Blogger July 28, 2011 at 05:26 PM
We use ScreenRetriever (ScreenRetriever.com) to monitor what our children are doing online. With only one click, I can immediately see exactly what my child is doing online- everything... Facebook, Other social network sights, YouTube, Other video sites, video chatrooms, skype, games etc. Our children know it's being used. When I'm not home or if my child takes their computer to a friends house, I use ScreenRetriever Replay, to scroll through hours of recorded activity in minutes. ScreenRetriever even addresses cyberbullying. If there is a cyberbullying incident... it can be saved and taken in to authorities. No more "he said she said." ScreenRetriever has changed our lives. I urge other parents to try it too.
Andrea Williams July 29, 2011 at 02:59 PM
I have learned so much from these comments! Once I load all of these tools, I'll feel better about my kids on the internet and implement a level of accountability too...thank you for all of the great advice!
Sheriff Scott Berry August 03, 2011 at 02:03 AM
Andrea, and to all the other posters..... If you think about it, there is no different set of rules for social media and "online" friends than there should be for "real life" friends. You have to vet your child's use of social media the same way you vet the homes you allow them to spend the night in. Being a parent is a LOT of hard work, and if it is easy, and you aren't spending much time doing it, then you are doing it wrong. I applaud these parents who have offered suggestions and who put forth the effort in ensuring their children are making responsible choices.
Andrea Williams August 03, 2011 at 02:22 PM
Sheriff Berry, Thank you for taking the time to join this conversation. It means so much to receive your applause!
Kids Social Network December 19, 2011 at 09:55 PM
This is definitely true. Facebook is great but it is not the safest for kids. Parents need to be wary about who their kids are friends with, and what they are posting. There is also a huge problem with cyber bullying but there isn't really a way to monitor it. There are social networking sites that are specifically targeted towards kids that have all the safety precautions that parents want. One site in particular is www.kidssocialnetwork.com. KidsSocialNetwork.com has monitors and parents and law enforcement officials are also allowed to monitor the site. There is also an online library for kids to learn so there are some educational benefits. Social Networking for kids isn't necessarily a bad thing as long as it is on a site that is safe and secure for kids.

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