Your Child and Social Media
Chances are you’re one of the millions of users who log on daily to social media sites such as Facebook to converse with friends, follow the news, or just plain indulge in this socially acceptable habit. If you’re also a mother to a pre-teen, there’s a high probability that he/she also has an account; sometimes with or without parental permission.
Facebook currently restricts the minimum user age to 13 and while mom and dad may say no to signing up online (via their desktop), kids nowadays are accessing the site through their iPhones, iPads, or tablets. Facebook claims to eliminate an average of 800,000 users under the age of 13 a year (this, according to a June 2012 Consumer Reports Survey). However, it’s estimated still that a whopping 5.6 million kids are on Facebook; some with his/her parent’s permission. Surely there must be some good in this. Right?
Facebook, like its famous predecessor Myspace, allows users to communicate on their own time. This is crucial to a child who may be shy and withdrawn and/or takes time to articulate what they want to say, but can’t, in person. The chat window for instance, helps a child further express themselves and make connections with people they may not feel as comfortable around face-to-face in the school setting, due to peer influence, classroom location, etc.. So then it’s okay to have my child create an online account? That is really up to each parent.
Parents need to evaluate their own relationships with their child because there is a negative side to using social media. The negative side is the negative comments that often lead to cyber-bullying. There are still many states that do not support laws against it. We can probably look back at a time when name-calling hurt our feelings and we’d do anything to not cross paths with that particular person. The disadvantage to social media for young kids is that the bullying doesn’t stop when the school bell rings. Furthermore, it gets shared amongst mutual friends and while it’s damaging and often demeaning, it becomes harder to log off later and actually ignore what’s being said. Therefore, the verbal abuse never ends for some.
With that, the choice is yours as parents. If your child has a device that supports the Facebook app, ask if they have an account. Better yet, insist that you also have access to their password. Do your research and friend request their friends and even their friends’ mothers. It may be beneficial to create a Mother/Child Facebook Contract (see an example below) outlining rules of behavior online and perhaps consequences for not following those rules.
Parent/Child Safety Facebook Contract
- I must ask permission to use Facebook by the grown up in charge of me.
- While in chat rooms or playing online games, I am only allowed to chat with people I know personally.
- All my photos must be set to friends only, not public.
- I will ask my mom before accepting a new friend request and will only have people on my account that I know.
- I will never talk negatively about my family through a post but am free to share my frustrations respectfully with a friend in chat.
- If I am subjected to cyber bullying, swear words, or inappropriate comments, I will notify my mom and leave the site I’m on and/or block the person.
- It is not okay to send game requests to my mom’s friends without prior permission.
- My mom must have my password and is allowed to access my account at any time.
- I am only allowed 1 Facebook account, 1 gmail account and 1 yahoo account. The Facebook account should have my friends and family on it. One email account should be for junk mail and the other for people to leave me messages on, outside of Facebook. My mom will have those passwords as well.