As the new school year begins, many families have discussions about new rules, curfews, chores – and often – technology. In my office I hear a lot of kids start conversations like:
“Mom, don’t you know that ALL 6th graders have a Facebook accounts!!”
“Dad, how am I going to know what is going on with my friends if I’m not on Facebook?!?”
As parents we are challenged to keep up with technology and its significance in our children’s lives. And before we answer “NO WAY!” or “Sure” to our kids’ requests for a Facebook (or other social networking site) account, I think it is important that we think carefully and talk thoughtfully about the question at hand.
The On-Line Mom (one of my favorite sites for parents) recently wrote a blog article about the pros and cons of Facebook for kids. They outlined some great points about the importance of technology in kids’ lives, as well as the dangers. With their points in mind, and understanding that each family needs to make their own decisions about the role of social media, here are some guidelines to help determine if your child is ready to enter the world of social networking:
- Computer literacy. While most tweens and teens I know have far more knowledge about computers than I do – not all are tech savvy – and Facebook is not the place to learn. Make sure your child knows their way around a computer and the internet before opening an account.
- Open communication. Parents should feel confident that their relationship with their child is on solid ground before an account is opened. Why is a good relationship important? Because open, honest, and frequent communication between you and your child is critical during their use of Facebook. Parents should be assured that their child will feel comfortable coming to them with problems or questions if they arise.
- No pressure. Most of us parents are guilty, at one time or another, of giving in to our child’s wishes to look cool, make up for a slight, or get them to like us better. This might be ok in some situations (making their favorite cookies, taking them to yet another vampire movie) but it is definitely not OK in this situation. As noted above, each family has to come to this decision on their own – coercion should not be a factor.
- Right vs. wrong. Before opening a Facebook account, children should be able to discuss with their parents appropriate (and destructive) on-line behavior. Kids (and parents) should understand the impact of bullying, friending, and talking to strangers on-line. Facebook and internet etiquette should be understood by everyone involved.
- Set guidelines. One of the last steps that parents and children should take before setting up a Facebook account, is to set up guidelines or rules for use. Will there be set times for Facebook use? Will mom or dad have to approve friends along with their child? How often will parents monitor their child’s use? What types of things are appropriate to include on a status update? At what point will Facebook use be suspended?
Stay tuned for my upcoming post: Am I Ready to Have a Child on Facebook?