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I am a rule follower. My opinion is that it’s not reasonable to expect children to follow rules for them if I don’t follow the rules for me.
I wear my seatbelt. I never speed, and I don’t let my children have social media accounts before the required age.
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When Should Children Use Social Media?
Social media outlets require that children be no younger than 13 before they have accounts. This is a good rule of thumb for parents who want to limit early social media usage. When your kids do get social media accounts, follow them and let your children know you’ll be checking up.
Ask a dozen parents this question, and you’ll undoubtedly get a dozen different answers.
Some parents insist that children should not have social media accounts until high school. Some say it’s fine to start when they’re still elementary age, and some say never at all.
I say it depends on the child and the social media. I also am here to tell you that, as a parent, you need to be vigilant about social media at any age.
Facebook and Twitter
News alert: Kids don’t use Facebook anymore. They probably have Facebook accounts to check in with certain businesses or social groups, but it’s the parents who have taken over this social media network.
The same can be said for Twitter as fewer and fewer teens regularly tweet.
Facebook has a great feature for younger children who aren’t quite ready for social media. Messenger Kids lets parents have complete control over who the kids connect with and what they share through their chats.
Children cannot connect with strangers or override parental controls unless they know your password. My 11-year-old daughter uses Messenger Kids to talk with exactly eight friends.
They are all children I know and have personally approved. I have also locked messenger to disallow links or attachments. This is a great way to teach children how to use social media without any risk.
Instagram and Snapchat
Both Instagram and Snapchat remain the most popular social media channels for teens. They use these formats to share pictures with each other and, sometimes, the rest of the world.
There are a few things to note about Instagram. Users have the ability to lock all content so strangers cannot see their photos. This is a very important feature for young people.
The other thing to note is that children may set up accounts using false information, and unless you regularly check their laptops, tablets, and phones, you may never know.
Even though you have social media platforms that will let you “lock” your content to a select group, you shouldn’t regard that content as private.
Why you ask?
Because you might not have set the privacy setting correctly. Also, the social media platform could either fail to secure the information or make changes to security settings down the road.
Lastly, the person you’re allowing to view the content could take a screenshot or repost it on their account for their followers to see.
With all of that said, make sure your child understands that they should NEVER post anything on social media that they’re not okay with people they don’t know seeing it.
Discord and Tik Tok
Parents need to know that some social media outlets have great appeal for children and not so much for adults.
Tik Tok is the short video social media platform known for dance crazes and social commentary.
If you don’t have a Tik Tok profile, you need to get one now. Your children may not have accounts, but they probably see trending videos any time they are with their friends.
Discord bills itself as a communication platform. Kids use discord for voice chats, instant messaging, message boards, and more. Discord allows children to connect even when they are stuck at home.
Even if you have a Discord account, you might not be able to see what they’re doing, saying, and sharing. This is another reason to limit social media usage to young kids until they mature.
Safety With Social Media
It doesn’t matter which social media outlet the child uses. Anyone who uses the internet is at risk when it comes to online safety.
You can do a few simple things to make things safer for you and your entire family.
Trust But Verify
My children know that we trust them, but they also know that we are parents first. We reserve the right to look at their social media accounts at any time.
I have access to their phones, tablets, and laptops. I can always check on them if I have any worries or doubts.
Respect Their Privacy
Just because I can double-check accounts doesn’t mean I always do. Don’t make your kids feel like they have to have secret accounts to evade your snooping.
Instead, let them know you value their privacy, but you also will ignore privacy concerns if you feel they’re in trouble in any way.
Have Strong Rules About Screen Time
My teenage son hates our household rule that screens are only allowed in common areas.
Phones and tablets are NEVER allowed in bedrooms. We don’t peek over his shoulder when he’s on Instagram, but it would be pretty easy if we wanted to.
Ignore “Everyone Else” Syndrome
My closest friend has two children who are 15 and 12. Neither are allowed to have social media accounts because she worries about their mental health.
If you feel your child would be better off without social media, by all means, tell them to wait. You know your child better than anyone.
If you feel your child is ready for a social media account at age 13, by all means, sign them up. Just make sure you are ready and willing to follow up on any issues as they arise.
What is your take on this subject? Share in the comments!
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