My oldest recently asked if she could get a Facebook account. I asked her why she wanted Facebook, and, her oh-so-tween reply was "Well, you're on it all the time, so I figure I must be missing something."
She isn’t wrong. I use Facebook for a lot these days. I buy stuff on Marketplace. I manage three Girl Scout troops and three grade levels at my girls’ school. I run social media accounts for my blog. I keep up with friends near and far, ask for recommendations for everything from dentists to hot new dinner spots and find events happening around town. It’s true. I spend a lot of time on Facebook.
I wondered how I was supposed to know if my daughter was ready for social media sites. Although she has said, several times through the years, that Facebook isn’t really hip with the younger crowd, I know she has friends who use the site. She tells me how they share videos, check in at various places around town and so on.
Legally, she can’t get a social media account on Facebook, Instagram or other similar sites until she is 13 years old. But these sites don’t do any sort of formal age verification, so this is easy to work around. I went down a rabbit hole reading this article on Common Sense Media about Instagram and the pressure it puts on kids to “measure up” to the perfect images and profiles others put forth on their profiles.
Is Your Child Ready for a Social Media Account?
The Modern Parent helped me come up with some great questions to ask myself (and my girl) to determine if she is ready for social media.
How old is my child? How mature is my child relative to her age?
Does my child understand the need for privacy? And what can and cannot be shared on social media?
Does my child understand that people say mean things on social media, and can she cope with that?
Does she understand that social media often only portrays the highlights of someone’s life and doesn’t give the full picture?
Does my child understand that not everyone on social media is real? Can she spot a fake account, or figure out when the person she thinks she’s talking to isn’t actually that person?
Rules for Social Media for Your Tween/Teen
If you have determined that your child is ready for a social media account, it is time to lay down a few rules to protect your child online.
Determine the password together. Make sure your child know not to change it. Knowing that you can access the account at any time should help discourage your child from hiding secrets.
Set daily usage limits. It is easy to waste astronomical amounts of time scrolling social media sites otherwise.
Photos that go online should be approved by you first. If my daughter is embarrassed for me to see a photo then there is absolutely no reason anyone else should see it, either.
No accepting friend requests from people online that you don’t know in real life.
No accepting private messages from people you don’t know if real life.
No posting negative comments on anyone else’s photos/newsfeeds/groups, etc.
The world of social media is both exciting and scary for me as a mom of a tweenager. I want her to be able to keep up with her friends, discover new brands and explore her interests (just like I do!) on social media. I’m confident, that, if we navigate this uncharted territory together, my daughter can enjoy social media accounts and I can still get sleep at night!