Moms Talk: When Do You Allow Your Child Access to Social Media?

Moms Council member Lori Hultin wonders at what age is it appropriate to let your child on to Facebook and other social media?

Moms Talk is a weekly feature on Agoura Hills Patch, part of an initiative to reach out to moms and families. We invite you and your circle of friends to help build a community of support for mothers and their families right here in Agoura Hills.

Each week in Moms Talk, our council of smart moms will take your questions, and share stories and solutions. Moms, dads, grandparents and the diverse families who make up our community will have a new resource for questions about the thousands of issues that arise while raising children.

Today's Topic: Allowing your child access to social media

This week's question comes from Lori Hultin, the mother of two daughters, ages 17 and 12.

My older daughter turned 12 during the MySpace era, and my husband and I were adamant that she needed to wait to have an online presence, at least until she was 13.  When she was ready, we made sure that we took the precautions of not only signing up for MySpace accounts ourselves, but making sure we had her username and password so we could keep an eye on her online activities and friendships.

Now that she's 18, and Facebook has long since replaced MySpace, she has become a pretty responsible online user who doesn't "over share".  Cut to the last three years when my now 12-year-old daughter has consistently begged to have a Facebook like "everyone else" does.  Facebook, itself, proclaims that you have to be 14 to sign up, but we all know kids (and parents) falsify birth dates to enable them access long before that age.

What is the appropriate age to allow your child to have a Facebook account or participate in other online activities, and what measures do you take to ensure their safety?

Charlene Ross April 06, 2011 at 09:41 PM
Great question Lori! My son got a Facebook account when he was 13. Since then the site has changed their minimum age to 14. I do not want to be his friend, but I do need to monitor his activity so when we set up his account I made sure I had his password and I do occasionally check out his page to see what is happening. Honestly though he only likes to play the games, does not have one picture of himself (he has rotating cartoon pictures for his profile pic), and has made maybe 1 or 2 wall posts in the year that he has been on. My daughter on the other hand will be the tricky one. She is almost 11. She has been told that she cannot have an acct. until she is 13 because it is against the rules and that is when her brother got one. She complains that "all her friends" lie about their age and already have one. I bring up all the kids I know who don't. (Who are fortunately the majority of her class, even though it is true that most of her closest friends have one.) I'm hoping to eek it out until she is 14 because of the change of Facebook's policy, but admit that I might not be that strong. (Sigh!) She worries me because not only is she a girl and more social, but she is less self-confident in some ways and very impulsive. I worry about what she will post and will definitely monitor her page daily. I know that some kids start pages without their parent's knowledge, so that can be a concern too. I will say that we will have very (VERY) strict rules regarding...
Charlene Ross April 06, 2011 at 09:49 PM
bullying and the photos that she posts. If she breeches those rules her account will be shut down immediately. The same rules do go for my son - but he is truly a different kid and breaking our social media rules is just not a concern for him. (Trust me we have concerns-a-plenty when it comes to my son but abusing Facebook is not one of them!) Stand strong and tell your 12-year-old that she has to wait and it is never okay to lie about your age before you turn 30! And hey, I have a friend who doesn't even let her 14-year-old 8th grade daughter have a cell phone let alone a Facebook acct. (I think the cell phone is coming this summer, but I'm willing to be that kid doesn't get herself on Facebook until college so tell your daughter it could be worse!)
Lori Hultin April 07, 2011 at 12:23 AM
Good advice, Charlene. I do think that each child's personality and maturity level should factor into these decisions. My younger daughter is much like yours - more social, more prone to impulsiveness and tends to over-share, so it may be that she has to wait a bit longer and demonstrate responsibility in that area first. One word of caution for all parents: it's not enough to be your child's "friend" on Facebook. You really do need to have access to their page if you want to find out what they are doing and ensure their online protection. If you're just a "friend", it's very easy for them to control what you see and what you can't see (i.e. they may shield you from things they don't want you to see). Your kids may protest that their privacy is compromised, but I would say, let them keep a diary and you'll promise not to read it! And if they want to have a private conversation with a friend, pick up the phone and call them! Online is a whole different world and many kids don't realize that what they post on Facebook doesn't go away, even if they decide later to delete it. I also think parents need to be savvy themselves so they can teach their kids how to use online tools responsibly and navigate the world their kids will be living in - from birth!
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