How Old Should Your Child be to Use Facebook?

List: Posted: 08/15/11

The Internet is a wonderful place to find information and to socialize.  However, parents need to take precautions when allowing their younger children to go online.  Many parents wonder what age their child should be when they are allowed to go on Facebook, or similar social networking sites such as MySpace or Twitter. 

 

The answer to this is complex.  While children, tweens, and teens all want to go online as soon as they see their friends doing so, it is not always safe to do so, particularly unsupervised.  

 

To begin with, a youngster should not be allowed to go on Facebook or MySpace until he or she is old enough to be responsible.  They will meet people from all over the world on social networking sites - not just their friends - and some of these people may have unsavory agendas, or may even be pretending someone they're not just to make friends with your child. 

 

You’ll need to assess your child’s maturity level to decide if you think he or she is mature enough to go online.  Even a child who seems mature can succumb to the pressures of online peers and cyber-bullying. 

 

It may be a good idea to decide the age you’ll let your children go on Facebook before they ask.  If you have several kids, they may not all be ready at the same age.  Instead, set up some ground rules for allowing your kids online access, and only have a computer in the family room or your own bedroom.  Putting personal computers in a child's room is giving your child too much independence and freedom to connect with strangers - not to mention accessing online videos and information that they may not yet be ready to handle.

 

Be aware that there are a myriad of mobile devices you can now buy at the electronics store that will allow them to access Facebook from their cellphone, some of which may easily be affordable with their pocket money or allowance.  Make sure you buy them a cellphone that is not internet capable, such as the iPhone, or they will have unrestricted 24/7 access.

 

When allowing your kids to go on Facebook, or indeed any social networking site, it is essential that you monitor their activities.  Insist on getting any passwords so you can more easily review what they are doing.  Keep in mind that the purpose isn’t to spy on your kids, but rather to ensure their safety.

 

Set up guidelines for your kids to go on Facebook, and review any images they want to post before they post them.  Images that are posted online can come back to haunt them – even years later.  Be sure to check their online friends to make sure that they are talking with people they know and that you trust.

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