I read a startling statistic the other day: 4% of children on Facebook are under the age of 6! This attention-grabbing headline was just one result of a survey of 1,000 U.S. parents. It reminded me of one of my first articles, originally published in February 2011. Most of what I wrote over a year ago still holds true. I’ve updated the screenshots and some of the information due to changes in the privacy settings in Facebook.
In a recent interview on the Today show, Michelle Obama said that her two daughters are not on Facebook. This little tidbit caused a mini flurry on the Internet. I don’t think it’s too surprising, given that the Obama girls are 9 and 12. And they live in the White House. My daughter is 10 and is not a member either. She knows about Facebook since she’s seen me using it. It is likely she’ll want to use Facebook at some point in the future. In fact I asked her how old did she think someone should be before joining? She said 13. I asked, why 13? “Well, then you’re a teenager”. Aha.
Will I let her join at 13? (This by the way is the youngest age for joining Facebook anyway, per their terms of agreement). I’m not sure, but if I did, I would likely impose the following rules, and would suggest them for any parents thinking of letting a younger teen join:
- Sign up using an e-mail account that I have access to.
- Share her Facebook password with me so I could log into her account if necessary. (This might be just initially to see how things go).
- Friend her so that I can see her updates and view her profile. (She’d see mine too, so I’d have to keep that in mind!)
- Set some ground rules, such as only accept a friend request from someone who you actually know.
- Go through all the privacy and account settings with her step-by-step. Be sure that the information she shares is only available to her friends only, not “Friends-of-Friends”. (One safe guard that Facebook does impose is that minors cannot share with “Public”.) As an example, here are two screenshots. The first one is the Facebook recommended settings, the default setting. The second shows suggested changes.
Facebook’s Recommended Settings:
Jean’s recommended Changes (at a minimum):
Tip Sheets from Netsmartz.org – These were sent by my daughter’s school. Tip Sheets from NetSmartz focus on social networking, cyberbullying and other topics. There are guides for parents, teens, and educators. What I like about these is that they don’t just use scare tactics and try to talk kids out of using these sites; they offer practical guidance and even suggestions on how to benefit from social networking. Check ‘em out.
Are you the parent of a young teen? Do they have Facebook? How do you help keep them safe?