This afternoon my nine-year-old came to me proudly holding his iPad showing me the download page in the app store for Facebook. Despite his impassioned plea, nine is just too young to be on social media in my opinion. Even though my son’s attempt to join the digital fray was unsuccessful, it did get me thinking. With Internet safety being what it is, at what age should kids have access to social media?
Studies have shown that more than 60% of kids between 13 and 17 years old have at least some form of social media presence. A Daily Mail poll conducted in 2014 showed that more than 50% of kids have waded into the social media pool by age 10.
Clearly, there is a quite a broad range of answers to this question. That’s probably because, like with most things, the answer will depend on a lot of other factors beyond just the child’s age. Here are some other things you can consider before determining if your kid is “ready”.
Is there a need for your child to be on social media?
With all of the great things that social media can offer, there are also a lot of dangers. Cyberbullying, stalking, identity theft, and many other forms of harassment are very real. It makes sense to consider whether your kid actually needs a social media account.
Do they need it to stay on top of sports and activities? Do they have friends that live far away? There are probably many other excellent reasons for kids to be on social media. All of these considerations should be weighed against the risks when approaching this decision.
Have your kids been educated on Internet safety?
If your kid is like my nine-year-old, you may feel like they know more about technology than you do. Even so, they need guidance on measures that they can take to stay safe. The good news is that some of this education is being provided in schools. If not, there are some free resources available online such as this post I published on protecting your information on social media.
However it comes, it is crucial that ensure your kid knows how to protect themselves before allowing them access to the social media world.
How are you going to keep track of your child’s social media activities?
I know this sounds a lot like spying. To be clear, that is not what I am proposing. As parents, our first obligation is to protect our children, but we can’t do that if we don’t know what’s going on.
All parents should have a listing of their child’s social media accounts and the associated passwords and security information. We should try to respect our kid’s privacy, but the moment you expect something may be going on, we must be able to look into it.
Also, it would be helpful to have a set of ground rules that limit which platforms the kids can use and how much use they are allowed.
Don’t forget about video games!
When I was a kid, to play a video game with a friend, that friend needed to be literally sitting right next to you. Things have changed. All modern gaming platforms support chat, mail, and group functions.
These features could be used to gain access to your kids. Many parents do not think about this communication channel, but there is evidence that it is gaining popularity amongst predators and cyberbullies.
Age is just a number
If you are a parent, at some point you are going to have to make this decision for your kids. It is important to remember that all kids are different and the answer to this question may not be as simple as age. Since you know your kids better than anyone else, you will need to gauge whether your kids are ready.
Hopefully, the considerations I shared are useful to you when the time comes. If you have any other thoughts on this topic, please share them in the comments.
My goal is to arm people with information that will help them and their families stay safe online. If you found this information valuable, please share it so that others may also benefit. If there is something you would like to learn more about, please contact me. Thank you!
Until next time, Cyber Safely!