Is my child old enough to use social networking sites?
Most mainstream social media sites have minimum age requirements. Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Tumblr and Twitter set the minimum age at 13. Kik requires parent or guardian consent for users between the ages of 13 and 18. My personal feeling on letting kids younger than that on social media is teaching them that they don’t have to follow certain age requirement rules, and that can be dangerous later on. Beyond the age requirements, if you’re asking, “When Is Your Child Old Enough for Social Networking?” consider the following questions.
1. How does your child react to taunting and teasing?
Some children become more upset at a negative experience than other kids do; this is true on the internet, on the playground or even in your own home. If your child is especially sensitive, you might need to guide his social media experience.
2. Does your child understand what is safe to put online?
Teach your child to avoid publishing her name, address, school, sports club or other information that allows strangers to identify and locate her. Discuss the risks of talking about her locations or activities online, posting sexy pictures, meeting online friends in person, engaging in offensive or bullying behavior.
3. Does your child know how to file a report regarding illegal activity or block those she finds offensive?
Review the safety center policies of your child’s favorite websites to make sure he knows the rules. Then show him how to block aggressive or offensive people and how to file a report when necessary.
4. Are you concerned your child will be left out of her social groups if she does not use social media?
Compromise with your child by allowing access to social media sites as long as she follow strict rules, such as using these sites only under your supervision and by supplying you with all current passwords.
5. Will you supervise your child’s activities on social media sites?
If you decide to monitor your child’s conversations on social media sites by adding her as a friend on Facebook or following her on Twitter, prepare yourself for what you might learn about your child and her friends. Avoid posting negative comments to or about your child or her friends – talk to your child in person if you have concerns about her well-being.
6. How will you talk to your child about your concerns?
Be honest. Ask about bullying or sexual advances directly. Above all else, keep lines of communication open. Remember to stay calm if you hear disturbing news. If you flip out, your child will shut down and that line of communication is now closed. Instead, use the incident as a learning experience, ask more questions that lead them to understanding why that news is disturbing and what they should do to make smart choices.
7. When should you worry about your child’s online activity?
Look for changes in behavior beyond the normal behavioral changes associated with teenagers. Signs of trouble include sudden disinterest in hobbies, moodiness and changes in sleeping or eating patterns.