Facebook is a pervasive social media tool and, whether you like it or not, sooner or later, your children will be begging to join. Like most social networks and social media sites, there is a serious need to determine if your child is ready to sign up or not. Often less about reaching a certain age or specific goal, here are some basic digital parenting questions to discuss with your teen or tween before you help them to create an account.
1. Do you trust them? A core question in every major parenting decision. In the past, when you have given your child more freedom or resposiblity, how has it gone? Is lying, or skating the truth been an issue in your household? If your child has always be forthright and honest with you, reciprocate! Open a dialogue about your expectations, but allow them to participate if they have earned your trust.
2. Do you have an understanding for the why they want to join? As Facebook has grown, it has become a "hub" for everything online. Your child's desire to open an account may relate to playing games with friends, chatting with friends online/on their phones (if they can't text), or perhaps keeping track of pictures they have taken with an iPod or camera. When your child comes asking, find the root desire and determine if it's the right time. If it is time, use that core reason as a way to teach safety, and set guidelines for usage. Be involved!
3. Do you and your child have a firm understanding of your "house" rules? Before getting blindsided by the question, take the time to be foreright and create some set-in-stone rules for how social media should be used in your house. Another approach, have your child create a set of rules for your approval. Engage with them and create a set of "house rules" together. We recommend printing them out, or even applying a safety pledge to lock them in.
4. Will they come to you if there is a problem online? Once your rules are set, make sure your child knows what to do if there is a problem. For instance, if they stumble across something they shouldnt see, how would you like them to respond? What actions will be taken if they break the house rules or abuse their new freedom? If it resorts to it, would you have their credentails to "take Facebook" away if you wanted to? Thinking ahead, both postively and negatively can save you a headache in the future.