As students get back to their school routines, many find themselves in a new environment and interacting with different peer groups. And growing up in 2016, they’re likely drawn to sign up for Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.
But how young is too young to be on social media?
While adults may join and navigate these sites without much deliberation, the issue is much more fraught when it comes to kids. There are potential dangers, emotional pitfalls and future consequences to consider.
Here’s what parents should know:
1. Children under age 13 are not allowed on most social media sites.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat all have policies prohibiting children under 13 from signing up. This is because the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act strictly regulates the way companies can interact with young people online, and children under 13 cannot have their data collected without parental permission.
Some parents may think their kids are mature enough to join these sites at younger ages and conclude that it’s not a big deal if kids lie about their age to gain access. But research on this practice found that it leads to a serious problem: Kids who say they’re 13 when they’re younger than that may eventually be viewed as 18-year-olds, and thus adults, when they are still minors.
So if an 11-year-old pretends to be 13 to get on Facebook, by the time she’s 16, Facebook will think she is 18.
What does that mean? Children between the ages of 13 and 17 are given greater protection than adults and can’t be seen by anyone outside who’s not their friend. But a 16-year-old that Facebook thinks is 18 could be viewed by potential employers or university admission committees, even if they don’t realize it.
There are, however, some social media sites specifically designed to be a safe space for kids under age 13.
2. Each child is different, and you need to tailor your rules to your child’s needs.
Even if, by the rules of Facebook and Congress, children are allowed to sign up for mainstream social media accounts at age 13, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re ready yet. Children grow and mature at different rates and in many different ways, so there’s no one rule that works for every child.
So what kinds of considerations should parents take into account when considering whether their kid should go on social media?
“If we’re already struggling around schoolwork, if we’re already struggling around screen time and focus, or sleep, or attention span, than introducing new technology isn’t setting our kid up for success,” said Janell Burley Hofmann, author of “iRules: What Every Tech-Healthy Family Need to Know About Selfies, Sexting, Gaming and Growing Up.”
Basically, the key is to have a good sense of what your children can handle. Kids who are extremely distractible or are always finding ways to get in trouble may be best kept off Facebook until they settle down. If your kid is relatively well-adjusted away from the computer or smartphone, and he expresses a desire to sign up for a social media site, it may be worth letting him try it out.
3. Consider setting a “social media curfew.”
But letting your kid sign up does not mean giving them free rein; it’s still important to set boundaries.
Ellen Mossman-Glazer, author of “The Parent’s Handbook for Talking WITH Your Teens About Social Media: The Right Words and Effective Techniques to Get Your Kids Safely On Board,” recommends thinking of these boundaries as a “social media curfew.” Just as you may let your children spend time at night with their friends as long as they’re home by a certain time, you can set limits to make sure their use of social media doesn’t get out of control.
Hofmann suggests one rule that might make parents feel more comfortable about their children’s activity is only letting them “friend” or “follow” other kids whom the parents have met. That way, your child can start to learn about and experience social media in a relatively controlled and safe framework.
It also may be important to limit the amount of time your child spends on social media, especially if it’s likely to conflict with other responsibilities.
But again, both Hofmann and Mossman-Glazer emphasize that the key to setting boundaries is to know your own kids, and try to figure out what will work best for them.
4. Parents need to educate themselves
“For all of us, we’re figuring out technology right alongside our children,” said Hofmann.
Many parents today didn’t grow up with anything like Snapchat or Twitter. If they want to help their kids navigate these platforms wisely and safely, parents need to know what these sites and apps are all about. This probably means getting their own accounts.
“I encourage parents to ‘friend’ their child when their child is on social media,” said Mossman-Glazer. However, don’t be surprised if this leads to some pushback. As Mossman-Glazer admitted, “Adolescents want to be their own boss.”
Parents may even have to do what few people have ever done — read Facebook’s terms and conditions and privacy policies — to know exactly what it is their kid is signing up for.
5. Navigating social media can be very challenging for kids.
As much as kids might want to go on social media, they may not realize how emotionally involved and taxing it can be. And social interactions online persist in a way that they never have in the past.
“Before, if I said something unkind in person or over the phone, it kind of disappeared after I said that,” said Hofmann. “But now we can ruminate, because we can go back [online] and read what’s been said.”
And it used to be the case that if a child didn’t get invited to go to the movies or the mall with a group of friends, that might be the end of it. But now, when all those pictures end up on social media, your child can have a vivid reminder of being excluded.
There are also many other potential dangers online, such as cyberbullying and contact from strangers. Ensuring that you have a strong and trusting rapport with your child, so they feel comfortable coming to you if these problems arise while on social media, is vitally important.
“Engage with your kids so you’re on the same page, so that you’re a team,” said Mossman-Glazer.
6. Remember: Social media can be a lot of fun.
While there are clear challenges parents should watch out for, it’s necessary to remember that social media isn’t all bad. In fact, in many ways, it’s quite good and enjoyable, and that’s why kids are so drawn to it.
A recent study even found that interacting with Facebookfriends can contribute significantly to personal well-being.
Hofmann noted that she really valued the connections she has formed with her own children online. “We share a lot of humorous content with each other, it’s actually a way we deeply bond, by sharing memes, or sharing articles — all sorts of content,” she said.
Acknowledging that there’s a lot of enjoyment to be found online may also help kids take parents more seriously when they’re warned of the dangers. And when parents recognize that socializing online is not just some weird quirk of the new generation, but perhaps a valuable new facet of life, they will better understand and be better able to connect with their kids.
“It’s OK for us to fall in love with the internet,” noted Hofmann.
[Source:-Accross American Path]]