Facebook is both as intimate as a family gathering and as open as a city street. It is natural that many users do not trust the ever-growing social forum. Many parents do not post the names of their young children. Instead they prefer to have the children identified by the parents’ names. This is meant to protect their identities. Still, many parents allow young children to become Facebook users on their own.
What is the best age for Facebook? When Facebook first began, it was limited to college students. Then it was expanded to include everyone from professionals to teens. Families are using it to keep in touch. Photos are shared freely. Political opinions are openly posted. Teenagers feel free to say and post anything, even if the language would make their grandparents blush. Of course, strangers are known to use false names to find vulnerable children. Equally dangerous, there are predators who go undetected amid a circle of friends or family. Parents must be alert to keep their children safe.
Suggestions: Just because a young child is old enough to read, it does not mean that he or she is mature enough for Facebook. Rather than an individual Facebook page, it is safer to include a child on the parent’s page. Let family members and friends visit with the child only under the parent’s watchful eyes. Predators generally won’t attempt anything knowing the child is monitored by the parent.
Frankly, it is easier to start strict and gradually reduce restrictions. Children should be monitored at all times when they are using any internet or phone application. Parents must remain vigilant and prevent potentially harmful interactions with predators. Children shouldn’t have their own page until they are 10 or older. Parents can slowly introduce independence in the teen years.
Giving Them Independence: When a child reaches 10 or 11, they may be ready for their own page. Parents may permit an individual profile but should limit the time spent on Facebook. They should set firm ground rules about accepting friends. They should also set rules about apps and “likes”.
Children should be taught that each foray into Facebook is like visiting with family on the street. Family and friends should be warned not to use identifying information or to post inappropriate material. Personal conversations should be done through messaging or chatting which is not visible to others. Parents should closely monitor all friend requests, messages, and conversations.
Parents should be brave enough to stand up to anyone who acts oddly. There is no reason to be shy when defending a child from a predator. Facebook is not just fodder for predators. It’s also a place for bullies. Children should be taught how to recognize bullying, and they should be taught to report it, rather than engage in it themselves.
When a teen rebels against parental interference, parents can offer compromises. They can begin to loosen their hold by allowing more freedom in choosing apps, ‘likes’ and friends. Teens should be able to prove to their parents how they know each Facebook “friend”. Parents should discourage teens from accepting “friends of friends” that could be predators in disguise. Parents should approve each adult “friend”. Parents can monitor older teens simply by visiting their page every day.
Step by step, parents can teach their child to walk through the internet minefield until they reach a point where they can go it alone.
Reese Alexandra is a mother of 3 and writes on behalf of advertisingmagnets.net.