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Facebook for Kids? What Parents Need to Know
Should Kids Have Facebook Accounts?
If you have a child who is using Facebook, you are not alone. According to Consumer Reports, over 20 million minors on on Facebook, and 7.5 million of those are under age 13. This article lists some of the things parents should think about before letting their children set up a Facebook account, or what precautions you should be taking if your child already has an account.
If Your Child Is Not on Facebook Yet, Don't Rush it
If your child is not yet on Facebook, chances are they have asked you if they can set up an account. This is especially true once kids hit middle school age. At this age, they want to be just like everyone else. And if their friends are on Facebook, they will want to be on there, too. And why wouldn't they? Facebook is like a giant, unsupervised party. At any given time, they can log in and see what their friends are doing, post their own messages, look at friends' pictures and videos, comment on each other's updates--it's the next best thing to hanging out together. It's even better than being in person, actually, because everyone is together, there are no parents around, and people are uninhibited--saying and sharing whatever they feel like. But for a pre-teen or teenager, this can quickly lead to trouble.
If you have not yet caved in to your child's requests to set up an account, consider holding off. This is especially true if your child is younger. Contrary to what your child might say, you will not ruin their social life if you say no to Facebook. Life will go on.
Pre-teens and teens are still learning to navigate relationships. Relationships are hard enough in person, let alone in an unsupervised, uninhibited environment like Facebook. Dramas can quickly spin out of control on Facebook. All it takes is for someone to post a rude comment about your child for the world to see. Or worse yet, someone can easily post an unflattering picture of your child. Kids are still learning to figure out how to deal with these kinds of dramas in the real world. Don't rush into Facebook, where it's even harder.
If your child is on Facebook, be sure to discuss with them the pitfalls of social networking sites like Facebook. Teach them to avoid drama, especially in an online environment where one comment or photo can be seen by hundreds of people at a time, and can easily be forwarded to others.
Facebook is a time waster. If you want your child to focus on the important things, like school work, spending time with family, and sports and other activities, Facebook can be one big distraction. Suddenly, logging into Facebook to see what everyone is up to can become an all-important activity. And these days, with kids often having access on their cell phones and iPods, you may not even be aware what your child is up to. Why open your child up to this time-wasting activity when there are so many more important things for them to focus on?
If your child is on Facebook, monitor their usage of the site. Ask them to be out in the open when they use it, not holed up in their bedroom or on their phone when you can't tell what they are doing.
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Your child's privacy and reputation are at stake. Shockingly, many parents allow their children to set up a Facebook account without even checking to see if they have established the proper privacy protections on the account. The default privacy settings on Facebook are not as private as you might think. Insist that your child modify the privacy settings so that their status updates, photos, and personal contact information are seen ONLY by people that they have accepted as friends. And even when they have done that, they should be reminded that their "friends" can easily forward comments and photos that they have posted to others.
Increasingly, employers are checking prospective employees' Facebook accounts. If a job hunter's settings allow "non-friends" to view their content, then it is fair game for employers to consider. This may not be an issue that affects your child now, but they will be leaving a trail of online activity over the course of their lives. Children today are growing up in an online world that is very different from the one that thier 30, 40, and 50-something parents grew up in. The behaviors of your child now in online environments like Facebook can very well affect their future.
If your child is on Facebook, you should be having frank conversations with them about their online behavior and habits, and the reputation--good or bad--that they are developing without even realizing it.
Should you be "friends" with your child? If your child is on Facebook, you should strongly consider being their Facebook "friend." They may not like it, but it should be part of the deal if they want to set up an account. It's not because you want to stalk them or pry into their relationships, but they should not be posting anything on Facebook that they would not be comfortable with you seeing. Besides, it will be easier for you to provide them with the guidance and direction they need if you understand how Facebook works and have your own account.
Whatever decision you make about allowing your child on Facebook, it should be something that you put a lot of thought into. Your child deserves nothing less!
Sage Carter shares ideas, information, and advice for better living. Visit her at http://sagecarter.hubpages.com/.