Parents hear a lot of conflicting things about Facebook these days. First of all, it looks like children have stopped communicating in person and started communicating more over the internet. There is a certain safety in this kind of communication. If you say something the other person doesn’t like, at least you don’t have to deal with the consequences right away. It gives you more courage to express what you feel. However, people do say hurtful things over the internet as well, and cyberbullying is as real a problem as in-person bullying. If you're wondering, "Is my child ready for Facebook?" then keep the following factors in mind:
1. Age: Is your child over the age of 13? If not, you will be in direct violation of Facebook’s policy. You’ll be lying about your child’s age and setting a bad example for him/her. So take your time and wait until your child is the official age. You’ll have less to worry about, and s/he will also be more mature by the time s/he starts social networking.
2. Computer Savvy: Make sure that both, you and your child, are computer-savvy enough to be able to use Facebook. For most kids, this isn’t a problem. But it’s best if you two go over things together so that you understand the way that Facebook works. For example, you don’t want your child to write something on someone’s “wall” thinking that s/he is sending a personal message. Something on the wall is visible to a large number of people and isn’t private.
3. Sexual Predators and Catfishing: Make sure that your kids know what dangers are involved in being on Facebook which has become a trolling ground for sexual predators. Learning about privacy settings should be your first step. Even if your child chooses to have a more public profile, warn them about people who have been “catfished.” This happens when people set up fictional profiles with fake pictures and histories in order to attract new friends. It may be awkward to talk about sexual predators with your kids, but it’s necessary to avoid problems in the future.
4. Cyberbullying: This is a very real problem as well, and you should make sure that your child isn’t being made the butt of it or inflicting it on anyone else. You may think that your child would never do something like that, but the internet format can sometimes bring out the worst in people, both children and adults. So be ready to hover, guide, encourage and criticize as necessary. It’s like taking your child to the playground, only now they’re older and have all the complications of puberty as well!
Overall, social networking can help your child to be more social, to meet new people, and to become more self-assured. However, it also has its pitfalls that you need to watch out for.
How young is too young for social media? Help keep your kids safe by staying informed with our Infographic, Under 13 on Facebook.