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Do kids and Facebook mix? Should you allow your child to be on Facebook? Is your child already on Facebook and you don’t even know it? No matter how you look at it, Facebook and Family intersect, especially with a teen in the house.
First of all, Facebook has some very specific rules regarding kids. Here’s the big one:
How old do you have to be to sign up for Facebook?In order to be eligible to sign up for Facebook, you must be at least 13 years old.
According to Facebook Rules, I wouldn’t set up an account for a child under 13. Not only is it a rule, I think 13 is an appropriate age when kids are very social, but able to *mostly* understand the implications and consequences of social networks like Facebook.
A family I know held fast to this rule, and opening a Facebook page was the best birthday present their 13 year old daughter ever received!
Every family should have some guidelines for Facebook. Carefully consider guidelines that work for your family, and especially your child. You might consider writing up your guidelines as a contract, with spots for parents and kids to sign. Pick and choose what you like, but here’s what I would recommend:
Parents Have the Password
You have complete access to every nook and cranny of your child’s Facebook account. You must have the password so you can check it at any time. Make sure your kid knows you’ll periodically be checking in. Then actually check in and let your child know what you saw. Do not save this for a time when you suspect something is wrong, make it a part of your weekly or monthly routine. Better yet, make it random and unexpected.
Your Kid is Responsible for What’s on Their Timeline
Your child is responsible for what he or she posts, of course, but they are also responsible for what appears on their Timeline. If a friend posts something icky, they just need to hover over the post and a small arrow will appear on the right-hand side of the post. Click on that and a drop-down menu appears. Click “Hide…” From there, you can hide the post, that specific friend, or the app the post comes from. Perhaps you can have a family rule that if a friend creates inappropriate posts more than 3 times (or whatever), they must be unfriended.
Include Parents on Every Friend List
On Facebook, users can have multiple Friend Lists. You can have a list for close friends, work friends, friends from your hometown, kids on your soccer team, students in your biology class, etc. You can have all sort of friends lists. When you create a post or put up a picture, you can select which friend list(s) to sent it to. You can also exclude users. As a parent, you must be on every friend list they have. Period.
Facebook is Forever
Whatever is posted on Facebook (or a blog, or Twitter) is Forever. You might delete a post, but it’s already on Friends’ Timelines. It’s out there.
A good way to show this is to get out a paper plate and a tube of toothpaste. Have them squeeze out a couple inches of toothpaste. Explain that the toothpaste represents Facebook posts. Now tell them one of those posts was a rude comment about a teacher, or a mean comment about a friend, or an embarrassing picture. Let them attempt to get the toothpaste back in the tube. They might be able to get some of it back in there, but it’s impossible to put it all back. That’s just like Facebook. You can even use this as a code word if your child is considering something that might be inflammatory. “Is that a toothpaste comment?”
Facebook and Your Future
One impact of the “Facebook is Forever” is that fact that Facebook can have an impact on your future. Help your child consider who might look at their Facebook posts in the future… employers, colleges, spouses, in-laws…children! Will your teen totally understand this concept? Probably not…looking deep into the future is not generally the forte of the young.
Restrict What You Share
Remind your child that no matter what sort of security settings you set up, the change of Facebook information getting “out there” is very real. Never, ever, ever give out your address, phone number, or school. You might want to be cautious about sharing your hometown. Someone could use this information to track them down, to advertise to them, or just to scam them.
Friends Must Be Friends IRL (In Real Life)
A Facebook Friend count can be a powerful tool! Teens might accept Friend request from anyone, just to add to their number. Make a solid rule that any Facebook Friends must be Friend In Real Life (IRL).
Set Privacy Together
I’m not even going to go over all the privacy setting here, because it’s very extensive and it changes all the time. Just do a quick Google search for “Facebook Privacy Settings.” Just make sure what you are looking at is recent.
Set Consequences if Rules are Broken
As part of your guidelines, I highly recommend consequences if any of these rules are broken…starting with restricting Facebook use. A friend of mine even created a post on her daughter’s timeline explaining what rule she broke and how long she would be off Facebook. Smart!
Don’t Parent Online
I suppose this is kind of contrary to the guideline above, but don’t parent online. Don’t remind your kids they have shores to complete, or remind them a post isn’t appropriate while on Facebook. Talk to them offline, or in real life, about issues.
The information in this post is accurate at the time written. Facebook changes often!
Find Your Fabulous,
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