Many children want to create a Facebook account because their friends may have an account and they want to interact with them. Facebook does not allow anyone under the age of thirteen to join the site. Even then, Facebook does try to protect the identity of anyone under the age of eighteen because they can be targets to online predators. A lot of children lie about their age in order to create a Facebook account because they want to be ‘cool’ like all of their friends. Parents are often oblivious to the fact that their children are on Facebook and they have no idea who they are talking to.
While every parent has a different parenting style, one thing most parents can agree on is trying to figure out what is the right age to allow their child to access a social networking site. Instead of blocking your children from the Internet and risking resentment from them for several years, one thing you can do is allow them to create their own Facebook page once they are of age and then create your own account so you can monitor your children’s behavior.
One thing you need to do before you sign up for an account is to talk about it with your children. Some kids may be embarrassed to have Mom and Dad tracking their every move on the site. While Mom and Dad may not be cool to a twelve year-old, you can still join their friends list to take a look at who they are interacting with. Talk to them about what is acceptable behavior like leaving comments on their page or sending emails. They may not care if you join their friends list, but commenting on their page a lot will be pretty embarrassing to them.
If you actually sit down and talk to your children about social networking, you may find that they actually want to add you to their Facebook page. Since most children are using social networking sites to communicate with their friends and family members, you may end up saving them some time when they need to send out messages to family.
The other nice thing about Facebook is that it does recognize that children like to have their freedom from their parents, which is hard to do if their parents are monitoring their Facebook account. For this reason, privacy controls were developed. Kids can still post messages to their page and they can block it from being seen by their parents. While this may not be ideal for parents, it is a nice compromise for children that need a little independence.
There are a couple other things you can do to protect your children’s privacy on Facebook besides warning them of the dangers of online predators. First, make them wait until they are of age before they sign up for a Facebook account. If they create an account without your permission, call them out on it and make sure it’s deleted and then come up with an agreement with your child about waiting until they are of proper age to join the site. Second, if your child does create an account and you are okay with it, make sure they set their profile page to private. Third, only allow your child to use a nickname or their surname. Do not allow them to put any information on the account that can identify them like the name of their school or their sports team. Fourth, talk to them about accepting friends on Facebook that they do not know. Fifth, trust your child and let them see that you do trust them. If you are concerned, remind them that you are going to randomly check-up on what they are writing.