Should I let my 11-year-old have a Facebook page?

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Photo by GOIABA, used under Creative Commons license.
Facebook restricts the age of users to avoid federal regulations that apply to sites that allow kids age 13 and younger, but we all know that kids much younger than the required age are using the social networking website. I’m a rule follower, and have always told my daughter that she needs to wait until she’s 13 to use Facebook. In the interim, she has used “Togetherville” (a social networking platform that was designed for kids and families) but Togetherville has closed down and she lost the connections that she had with her friends in other states who were also using that platform.

I’ve thought of letting her get a page but not allowing her to post pictures of herself and using the privacy setting that requires the user’s approval of photo tags before it can appear on their profile (I use that feature myself and have been really glad I did). That she would give us her password and “friend” me and her dad goes without saying. But I’m not sure that even with plenty of privacy, communication and restrictions I would feel comfortable with it.

Have you let your “underage” child get a Facebook page? If so — how have you helped them to control their privacy? If you decided not to let them cheat…what helped you make that decision and stick to your guns despite your kid’s pleading and/or the pressure their peers applied to them? Are there different platforms I should be looking into? — Sarah

Comments on Should I let my 11-year-old have a Facebook page?

  1. I’m a Bachelor’s of Education student, and facebook is just drama all ’round. My feeling is strongly no, and I’m old fashioned in that I feel like people under 18 don’t need the internet for anything other than schoolwork except in extenuating circumstances (terminally ill and away from school etc). There’s only so much you can control as a parent/educator, but the internet is in fact one thing you can.

    • I know this is a bit off topic, but could you say more about why you think people under 18 don’t need the internet for anything other than schoolwork? The internet has been such a part of my life I’m having a hard time imagining that. 🙂

      • It effectively turns your brain to mush. Even if they’re watching ted talks and reading mental floss (…they’re not) it’s still passive engagement, and they’re sitting on their butts inside. On top of that, I practicumed in a 7th grade classroom, and the internet drama was already crazy…they’re 11 and 12 year olds. I feel really strongly that it’s like a mousetrap with instructions on it, we know how scary it is and yet we choose to let our kids use it anyway. If you’re going to let them use it, you need to be willing to stand over their shoulder The Whole Time asking ” What’s that, who’s your friend”, and being there for teachable moments that might come up. The key is making it clear that personal safety trumps privacy vis a vis the internet in your household.

        • There is quite a bit of research to back up what JenniferP is saying. I use the internet a lot – especially for keeping in touch with friends who live abroad. However, I grew up before there was internet. It is not necessary, we are just used to it. I do believe we need to limit internet and computer usage in young children so they do not become used to it. There are certain skills that atrophy when we become overly reliant on the internet and we need to give children the chance to develop them. Most likely they will all then join the social networking site du jour and overuse wikipedia but hopefully a strong foundation will prevent future mush.
          All this is not to say I will prevent my kids from ever going on line. The OP talks about limiting the info available on FB and others mention limiting the time spent (like parents would with TV). I think this is what I will do too. More, we should be aware that using the internet a lot is not better than watching a ton of TV and there is more and scarier stuff accessible.

          Another point (sorry for such a long comment) is we need to be teaching our kids to be internet literate – that is how to interpret the often inflammatory and inaccurate information available online.

        • I completely disagree with you. Society is changing as it always does, and just because kids are getting entertainment/knowledge/experience in something other than what you grew up with, doesn’t mean it’s turning their brains to mush.

          Kids can get so much information and knowledge online without even realizing they are, and I would want to support that fast pace of learning. Plus, you are completely wrong when you say that kids only go to worthless sites. Kids are curious and explore everything and enjoy learning, so they will not stick to one kind of place, outside, in school, or online. Also, even sites like Facebook aren’t completly worthless; they are teaching a social skill (one that you did not necessarily grow up with, but one that they will definitely need in the future unless they forego internet entirely as an adult). Plus, it’s a way for them to start being able to identify themselves, AND you can see how exactly they ARE identifying themselves, if they’re not extroverts and tell you everything.

          And internet drama in a classroom is not surprising. But take it away? and you have note-passing drama, locker drama, etc. It’s just in a different format these days (and might be faster-paced then an older generation is used to).

          And yes, the internet is scary, but so is school sometimes! so is public transportation and restrooms! But we let our kids go to those places. You set groundrules, but know that your kid will explore. I agree with what alison said – we need to help our kids become internet-literate, so that they don’t get to college and have people showing them tub-girl as their first internet experience because their friends think it’s funny that they’ve never been exposed to that kind of thing.

          And I am not really sure what skills atrophy because of the internet… I mean, make sure your kid is physically active, but people with bookworm kids have to do the same thing, that’s nothing new.

          Alright. Rant ends. 🙂

      • Growing up, we were allowed a half hour daily to use the computer or internet for anything unrelated to school. I think this is pretty reasonable.
        I don’t think kids under 18 should be blocked from ever using the internet. It is an amazing tool, even if it’s mostly passive engagement (actually, studies show that internet use exercises your brain as much as a crossword puzzle). Think of all the amazing nature clips, social documentaries, artistic works, science lectures, etc that are available on YouTube. I wouldn’t just let a kid loose to watch hours of stupid videos online….but I think you can watch something and then engage in discussion about it. One of my favorite websites is The Kids Should See This (Google it!).

        • “I feel like people under 18 don’t need the internet for anything other than schoolwork except in extenuating circumstances ”

          To clarify, it’s a great tool for homework but otherwise a minefield.

          • The internet is valuable for more than homework. The internet hit my household when I was 12, and my creative juices were immediately electrified by this global connection. I found fansites and message boards for my favorites books, tv-shows, and books. I wrote my first novel-length fanfic at age 13. Html started making sense to me in 8th grade. I learned to use photoshop in highschool, so I too could post new wallpapers and icons of my favorite Stargate/Matrix/Harry Potter/LotR characters (depending on the era we are talking about). I learned how use 3-D modeling software and hexediting to make my own objects and maps for my PC games through online modding communities (Elder Scrolls Fan in the house! woot woot!) The first time I traveled internationally, it was to present a paper at a fan conference, and I met people from across the world that until then I had only known on the internet. In the past 16 years, I have learned more about the world and about myself than anyone could have guessed… and it all had nothing to do with homework.

            I am not saying that this is the usual case for kid’s first exposure to the web. Like all things on the internet, your mileage may vary. But it may be worth considering 🙂

    • I…. tentatively disagree that it has no value to the under-18 set, though it’s all anecdotal, personal stuff. I have no science, so I’m willing to acknowledge that from a developmental standpoint I’m totally wrong.

      As a teenager in the military, using the Internet wasn’t just a communication tool when I had to leave all my friends behind — and have wild drama with them, absolutely. It was also the medium where I really found my niche both as someone interesting in technology and as a young writer — which is now an active career for me. I made friends through fandoms all over the world, and I learned a lot about other people and experiences. To me, the Internet is still an active social environment.

      I think the problem becomes when the Internet itself becomes a passive thing — I’m bored, so I’m just going to stare at FB for an hour instead of doing something. And there has to be a point where you can somewhat maturely process things; we had the Internet when I was younger (I was 10 when I discovered it at my mother’s now-husband’s house), and I used it, but it wasn’t really a casual, often thing until I was 14 or so.

      • As other commenters have said, it’s not an authentic social environment. We’re teaching our kids to ‘style’ their lives and bare it all to everyone for approval, rather than making yourself happy.

        • “We’re teaching our kids to ‘style’ their lives and bare it all to everyone for approval, rather than making yourself happy.”
          Having grown up pre-internet… isn’t that what teenagers do anyway? I would argue that middle school is not an ‘authentic social environment’, nor high school, but we make our kids go anyway.

      • i’m with this idea – i’m not really here to dispute the science, just to note that, personally, the internet had extraordinary value to me as a teenager and pre-teen.

        as a depressed, introverted, socially awkward kid, the internet was an absolute lifeline to me. i was (am) not one to display emotions, so the safety of the relative anonymity of the internet made it the only place i felt safe talking to people about the things that were genuinely important to my well-being at the time. i really can’t quite grasp how i would have dealt with that time in my life without my online community.

        all of my fights with my mother stemmed around internet use. my basic argument being that what i did online was read, write and talk to friends, which was better (or surely no worse) than what i did offline, which was read and write.

        that said, i’m not sure if the above has anything to do with facebook, which is all about speeding up to process of social interaction with you *real life friends* to a frenzied level (at least, that’s my take).

        also, i was a pretty mature kid, and was very aware and conscientious of internet safety, etc. i think a lot of it comes down to “you know your kid best” and that what works for one 11-year-old may not work for another.

      • Some very fair points. All I know is a big part of my career is and will be dealing with the fallout of the decisions people make (or don’t in many cases) for their children. Please choose wisely.

    • When I was 14 or so, the internet was an absolute lifeline for me during the process of coming out. For vulnerable young people who can’t get the support they need in real life, the internet can literally save their life. If it wasn’t for the Lord of the Rings fandom online I wouldn’t be here now.

    • Masters in communication with a thesis topic on Facebook. 100% agree. Facebook et. al is not social, it just fills in the gaps and isolates people under the guise of being “social” and insinuates a lot of drama (politics, anyone?) The impersonal nature of the communication platform is cause for a lot of unnecessary turbulence in relationships. I always say, if you don’t know their phone number, email or birthday, they’re not really your friends. And, so many people don’t bother to know because of Facebook and become isolated.

      Also, Internet addiction is real. If you can’t shut it off and “not look” for a week or delete it, than you have a problem.

  2. I have debated back and forth. I think our kids will have FB pages a bit earlier just because we are military and have moved around a bit, as have their friends. Plus, all family is far away. This would allow the kids to keep in touch easily. My husband and I will have the passwords and they will only be allowed to access it with us. Everything will be on lockdown and we will have to approve all friend requests–there will be no people they don’t know. Our son is about to be 8 and we’re about to move again. I figure we’ll wait til he’s about 9 or 10, then do it–it will also allow him to keep in touch with his mom (I’m stepmom) and his dad when they’re deployed, since they’re both Navy.

    • Hey, Dani I submitted this question 🙂 We’re in the military too. We have friends all over and are nowhere near family-that’s what makes social networking so tempting. It’s a one stop shop!

    • Good point/idea about YOU being the keeper of the password, Dani. For kids that young I think that’s a very key tool to ensure safety and ensure you’ll be around to teach them how to navigate the maze of social networking.

  3. Can she use email to communicate with those distance friends instead of FB? I really don’t think making an illegal page for her is necessary, and can get your IP blocked from the site as well. I wouldn’t go so far as the above commenter suggested in limiting internet to only schoolwork until 18 (I would have been a very lonely teen without the internet!), but waiting until she’s 13 is a reasonable limit IMO.

    • It’s true-email could work. I used it for a long time to keep in touch with friends before facebook came along. She became so accustomed to interacting with friends using “togetherville” that we’ve been looking for a similar social networking platform. So far, we haven’t found “facebook for kids”, but if there was one we would jump on it!

  4. My husband is a marketer and together we have spent a lot of time seeing what exactly FB can do and how it works. It’s a powerful tool, more than most people realize (def more than I’d ever considered) when they make their profiles and share their personal information.

    You have to be able to keep tabs of the sum total of information being shared about your personal life in order to consider yourself “safe” online. Snippets that are, on their own, innocuous (a check-in here, a status update months later about a birthday party, a comment on a friend’s status talking about teachers) can be compiled super quickly into a dossier containing sensitive information like DOB, likes, dislikes, addresses, friends, etc.

    It’s easy to overshare when a platform only has you seeing what you’re sharing in the moment, independent of what’s been said in the past.

    So. That’s not really an indicator of whether an 11 year old “should” use something like Facebook, but it’s something to weigh as you make this decision.

  5. Could some parents who are concerned about this say more about what their concerns are? Drama/online bullying? Creeps and stalkers? Kids keeping secrets? What will be different at 13 than at 12? It seems to me like there’d be different solutions for different concerns.

    • Marina, I think it’s more a matter of a child’s maturity and ability to make good decisions that separates the tweens from the teens. Granted, as many have said, it depends on the individual kid, but it seems the government has created a benchmark that at age 13 most kids are ready for more internet freedom. Yes, there will be similar issues at 11 or 12 as at 13 or 14, but the way a child will handle them will change as they grow and learn.

  6. wow what a really great discussion I have often wondered how I will handle this when my child is old enough. Ok, so I think that you have to be realistic about internet use. In this day and age children need to be fluent in using the computer but they also need to be protected as well and taught that its a privlege and must not be abused. I think that if you give your children a small amount of independence and responsibility for their own behavior they learn very valuable lessons (forbidding the use of something altogether doesn’t teach them alot I don’t think) so I would have a family facebook that allows your children access to their long distance friends or family and monitor it, that way their info isn’t on the account and they can use it safely and also learn responsibly how to interact on facebook and the internet as well. Then if they handle that usage well at an older age I would then allow them a little more (like their own page with you having complete access) and so on and so on. If you keep them from using it till they are 18 I think that then they will go off to college not having been given any independence with the internet and I know from my own experience that children who are shletered too much tend to go crazy and out of control once let out of their parents grasp.

  7. I think it depends a lot on the kid in question. But as someone who is rather glad that her 11-year-old self used an online handle that no one will ever know about, I’d be pretty cautious. I said a number of things online that I’d be mortified to have pop up today. I grew up using the internet when it was a place of anonymity, which it just isn’t any more (for better and for worse).

    With Facebook and other social networks, you have to make sure your kid understands that NONE of it is private, even if it seems that way. Privacy settings help keep out creepy stalkers, but in my experience you’re much more likely to have issues with the stuff you say to the people you know.

    If you do decide to let your kid use Facebook or any other social networking site, make sure they understand not to say / post anything they wouldn’t want everyone in their class to see. Because with the power of printscreen it’s entirely likely they might.

    • “But as someone who is rather glad that her 11-year-old self used an online handle that no one will ever know about, I’d be pretty cautious.”

      Exactly this. There is some Harry Potter fanfic out there from my 14-year-old self that I NEVER want resurfacing… haha.

      No Facebook when I was a teenager – just good ol’ MSN Messenger – so far fewer real names involved. I am very glad about this indeed now that I’m trying to build up a professional-looking picture of my online activities in case anyone goes looking.

      Suggestion: Perhaps just first name and last initial? Or first name + middle name (used as last name)? I know plenty of adults who do that to keep some anonymity. Or even fake names (I know Facebook’s not into that, but still…). In all these scenarios, you just say to your REAL LIFE friends when you see them in REAL LIFE – “Hey, I use the name Starry McFluffypants on Facebook, add me, k?”

  8. I was an avid internet user by the time I hit 13. From my experience, I was better off not having access to a site like Facebook. While I like to imagine that I was always a pretty savvy ‘net user, I still did a lot of things online that were potentially compromising to my safety and future life.

    And the problem with a social site like Facebook is that while YOU may browse in a safe way, that doesn’t mean your friends will. Her friends could easily post photos that have your daughter in them that are tagged with their current location. Even if your daughter isn’t tagged by name, it would be easy for a creep to find them.

    Honestly, I wish Facebook would raise the age limit. (I KNOW, I KNOW.) I just witnessed too much internet drama as I went through high school. Actual fistfights started because of online rumors.

        • No one can tag you, but if the pic of say, you and a
          friend getting a slushee and friend takes a pic of you
          with a slushee and posts it to Facebook from her mobile, it will tag the
          picture with the location-it will say something
          like ‘Near SpecificCity’. It’s not super accurate all the time,
          but it’s something to be aware of.

          • And your friend can easily caption them “At Super Slushies!” which everyone knows, there’s only ONE Super Slushies in SpecificCity, so you’re probably hanging out over on East Main Street. Or if, say, they’re at a slumber party, they can always caption them “SUPER AWESOME SLUMBER PARTY AT MY HOUSE!!” And if that friend hasn’t been smart about sharing details of their home location…

    • You bring up a good point – I was an internet creep when I was 13! I was talking to strangers in chatrooms…but unless I volunteered my information (I didn’t), it would have been very difficult to find. With Facebook, SO MUCH of your information is totally OUT there, many times without your knowledge or consent.

      Additionally, the fact that what kids say on Facebook can potentially be damaging to them (it NEVER goes away…) if they say something they shouldn’t. Sometimes things can’t be deleted in time.

      The internet is too normal for my tastes now. Everyone is constantly plugged in and in contact. I want my kids to value phone calls and face to face interaction. I’m DEFINITELY not saying that can’t be tech-savvy AND value face-to-face. I just fear that it’s a slippery slope.

      • If you want to know just how easy you are to look up, post one detail about yourself on 4chan. Unless you’re the cleverest little internet hermit, your boss will be phoned within the hour.
        And while that’s not something I would ever do to myself, who’s to say that someone who’s pissed at me wouldn’t do that? And 4chan is just one example.

  9. I struggled with this for a while, but I allow my 11 year old to use FB. I decided her generation is vastly different. Smart phones and social networking will be a huge part of it. I felt it was important to teach her how to use it with rules and limitations rather than ban her from it. I have her log in. I am able to check her friends and messaging if needed. She knows the rules. Only friends, family, and people you know in real life from church or school. Anything questionable get a grown up. If she breaks the rules she loses it. She has been great and its allowed her to connect with more kids at church, see family updates and chat with friends after school.
    We talked about putting things on the internet and how it will never go away, even if you delete it. She has to approve who tags her in places or photos. And we talked about not being in photos that she wouldn’t want grandma to see… there is no perfect answer, but I wanted her to know how to use these things in moderation and be able to come to me for help when things come up.

  10. Maybe an option for younger teens/ pre-teens would be to set up a page but not give them the password… you can ‘schedule’ Facebook time when you can be around to monitor their use. I don’t know that I’d want to start them that young, but if they have older siblings or lots of friends connecting that way it would prevent them from sneaking around. Better to be aware of their online activity than to be surprised later.

    Social media isn’t going to go away, so if their early experiences are teaching healthy internet practices they will be better set up for the future. Kids now will have a much different relationship to all this stuff that we do…

  11. I grew up without the internet and facebook, so I’m concerend about this topic as well. I feel like I won’t understand when the drama starts. There has always been something that has kept people sitting inside on thier butts all day, so that isn’t my main concern. I’m worried about the creepy people and bullies, and drama! Can you have the kid use your e-mail address as the main address for their page? Will that help with monitoring?

  12. Clearly I’m thinking about this too much if I comment twice but…

    What concerns me most about getting a Facebook account at a young age is the propensity for it to turn into a “permanent record.” Even if you can hide / delete old stuff, doing so is tedious and you might not think to until too late.

    Mercifully I didn’t get a Facebook account until after I grew out of the “being a total asshat” stage (so, in my 20s). When Timeline was introduced there wasn’t much to purge from my history. But reading back through my Livejournal entries (which are now private) is rough – and at the time they were completely public.

    Are there any social networking sites where accounts self-immolate the second you turn 18? Like a juvenile record sealed away forever?

  13. This is a great topic for discussion and I think we do have to walk a fine line with things like this and make sure that we’re not being alarmist or overly old-fashioned while at the same time being cautious. That’s hard to do without lots of people to bounce ideas off of!

    The question I would ask is, what’s the added value? What can a person get off Facebook that they can’t get elsewhere?

    In my view, nothing. The connections and interactions on Facebook are convenient, but cheap. Facebook, in part because EVERYONE IS ON IT is a social mask, rather than a tool of genuine communication. Other sites that are smaller allow more opportunity to explore community online, but that just doesn’t happen often on Facebook.

    And that’s the best case scenario. The worst of course is bullying, stalking and sexual predators. But of course, that can happen on any social site or over game consoles, phones, etc. But if the value the teen gets out of FB doesn’t outweigh those risks, I would think twice about it.

    What FB does is make connection easy. And for a teenager, I’d rather be teaching them the more challenging methods of communication first and let them wait until after high school to go the easy route. I can’t speak highly enough about the value of the written note or even personal email over the tagged photo or status update.

    Finally, there’s the issue of how others feel about young people online. It makes me EXTREMELY uncomfortable when my friends’ teens add me on FB. I don’t want to NOT friend them because I want them to know I’m there for them. But I also fear accidentally having a negative influence on them because I was having a bad day.

  14. My kneejerk reaction is no. But I dont have an 11 year old. I have a 3 year old and my husband and I have talked about this a lot. I cant say what works for your family but we dont plan on allowing our child to use social networking sites, but thats almost 10 years from now, so who knows.

  15. May I just say that I am sooo glad that I came of age internetwise just before everything started to stick around. FOREVER. I was sensible enough to use a pseudonym on livejournal, but I am so glad it’s all gone (deleted and purged) and can’t be traced to me as an adult. I’m not sure how I feel about my child being on facebook, luckily she’s only 3 so I have some time. I am glad that facebook wasn’t around when I was 11 through 24, and that in the intervening years I’ve had strict filters on what I was willing to share on the internet AT ALL.

  16. I typed up something long and rambly about my experience online as a very young teen unsupervised on the internet of the early 90s. But I guess to get to the root of the issue, I think it depends on the individual and how responsibly they have communicated online in other contexts. I tend to discount the danger of unknown people online, and I know I got a lot out of being able to experiment with my personality in situations where I felt unobserved by those who I was most concerned with impressing, who were my family and real life associates. But I was pretty smart about my identity and the internet was a much different place.
    I think, maybe when this issue comes up in my family, maybe I will try to come up with a list of concerns and try to address them individually. For example bullying, privacy, strangers, and content. If only a few seem like blind spots for my daughter, then I might feel ok formally trying to monitor only those that worry me and leaving the rest to her (with support and advice and probably checking up every once in a while).

  17. Full disclosure: I am a 25 year old without kids.

    You already said you like to follow the rules, I’d say stick to your organal rule.

    Try keeping up with friends with Skype and Email maybe an online messenger like MSN or Yahoo. All these methods are ways to keep in touch with people you already know and you don’t have to add people you don’t know.

    I didn’t have Facebook until I was in college, and am very glad about this.

  18. I’m honestly not convinced there is a valid benefit for anyone to be on Facebook anymore. The argument that it helps us ‘stay connected’ doesn’t seem authentic to me and there are so many bad things that come along with it – especially for an eleven year old.

  19. This doesn’t have a lot to do with the original question, so Offbeat Editors I understand if you want to delete this comment. 🙂 But there’s so much discussion in the comments about how minors should have severely limited internet access and I really, really disagree…

    First of all, I think teenagers having access to Facebook for the first time at age 18 is a recipe for trouble. There they are off at college, figuring out how to cook ramen and do homework without anyone looking over their shoulder and going to parties, and they have no experience using Facebook safely? Yikes! That’s how all those incriminating pictures get posted, by kids who have no experience in how to keep private things private. Have them start using Facebook safely before they’re exposed to underage drinking, not at the same time.

    Second, just because a method of communication is newer doesn’t mean it’s worse, nor does easier/quicker mean worse. Facebook is a very specific form of communication: very short, often banal, immediate comments on what the person is doing right this second. Letters are great for long-form communication, but have no immediacy. The other thing Facebook does brilliantly is the “share” and “like” features. That’s the “social” part of social networking, the ability to react in real time to things others show you. The form of communication you use should match the information you’re trying to communicate. You shouldn’t put private information on Facebook, and you shouldn’t put your favorite LOLcat macros in a letter.

    I also strongly disagree with the idea that teenagers need their parents looking over their shoulders all the time. Being a teenager is all about finding your independence and learning your own boundaries. The job of parents is not to stop their children from ever making mistakes, but to help them grow into their fullest potential. For most kids, that means broadening the activities they can do, not limiting them. I know there are some kids who have very poor senses of their own boundaries and can use adult help in deciding which activities to try when–maybe your particular 11 year old is not ready for a given activity. Maybe a particular 16 year old isn’t ready for it either, or maybe a particular 8 year old is. But personally I think you might do better in the long run helping a child develop a better sense of their own boundaries rather then continuing to do it for them.

    I did a bunch of stuff online as a young teenager I didn’t want my parents to know about. I also did a bunch of stuff offline I didn’t want my parents to know about, and that stuff was a lot more damaging in the long run.

    Blah de blah, basically what I want to say is that I don’t like incredibly general statements like “Facebook is useless” and “No teenagers should use the internet”.

    Also let’s just take a second to giggle that the internet is what’s making this conversation possible, yeah? Here we are having an active, thoughtful discussion. Guess it can’t be that useless, right? 😉

  20. My “short answer” opinion is: “No, do not violate Facebook’s Terms of Service.”

    But once they do turn 13 (or later), maybe they could sign up using your email address? That way ALL notifications go to you first. And only “friend” family members and classmates known personally. Even friending ‘other adults’ should either be not done at all, or done with extreme trepidation.

    That’s all I got…I am also very glad that I grew up BEFORE facebook was around! 😉

    • Unfortunately you can’t have multiple accounts that use the same email address so you would have to let them have one instead of having one yourself or set up a new email account for that purpose.

  21. Short version: I think it can be okay for a lot of kids, with proper precautions and supervision.

    Long version:
    I’m 24 years old, and I work in a middle school (ages 10-14 for the most part). A lot of my kids, especially the 8th graders, do have facebook. Quite a few aren’t allowed one. Most of them have at least a cell phone, probably most of those are smart phones. I know there is drama that goes on. Texting and cell phone safety is something they learn in health class, and a lot of that applies to things like facebook.

    I think that it really depends on the family and kid in question. I wish facebook had a transitional option for pre-teens where their account is linked to a parent account, which has full access to view and delete anything in the kid’s account. The accounts could automatically un-link at [whatever age], or whenever a parent sees fit.

    Lacking that option, I think it is okay for some cases. The email address used should belong to the parents, and they should have the password. Parents should make sure to lock down all those privacy settings. Kids should have to ask parents before doing anything like adding photos or friends. Kids should not be allowed to add anyone who isn’t an actual friend (so no people they barely know from school, or known enemies). Time spent on facebook should be limited, and any problems (drama, sketchy strangers, etc.) must be reported to parents. ANY breaking of family-set rules leads to consequences (grounding, etc.). Of course, conversations about the nature of the internet, privacy, permanence, etc. have to be discussed in detail. If your kid doesn’t seem to “get it,” then facebook is probably not good for them yet.

    I wouldn’t worry too much about the things your 11 year old kid being found by a potential employer 25 years down the road. By that time, I’m pretty sure that if said employer does find something your kid posted, they will recognize that they were *11* and not hold it against them. Really, who didn’t do/say stupid things when they were kids? Privacy issues aren’t that tough to control if you are familiar with the privacy settings. My main concern would be bullying and drama, but the same things can happen via text, skype, email, and other places (including *gasp* in person!), so I don’t see why facebook should be singled out there. Online predators work by befriending kids online. If you supervise your kid well enough to know that they’re not talking to strangers (and teach them about how you don’t meet with them in person), you probably don’t have to worry much there.

    Letting your kids have a facebook and familiarize themselves with the internet does carry a lot of benefits. It helps them stay in touch with friends and family, and can strengthen friendships. They can throw up a post if they need to know what the science homework was, plan get-togethers, play games, and chat. They’ll learn internet safety, and become familiar with the layouts of websites, online etiquette, and how to do a decent google search. Social networking and technology in general are going to be a critical part of their lives, so sheltering them too much is almost definitely a bad thing, as far as I can tell.

    • “By that time, I’m pretty sure that if said employer does find something your kid posted, they will recognize that they were *11* and not hold it against them.”

      I definitely agree. Also, I think it’s important to remember that, by that time, the person *hiring* your kid will probably have been on Facebook for decades too – so they’ll know what kind of thing can end up there!

  22. I’ve been using to post my baby pic to my family. I refuse to put any of my son’s pictures on Facebook, I want to protect his privacy. But at the same time, my family and many friends live far away so I need a place where I can keep them up to date. I find this site gives me better control over that kind of thing. I pay annually to set up a group, but it’s free for anyone I invite to join that group.

  23. I don’t have any children, but I do have personal experience to give. Because I’m 24, I grew up in a time where social networking, chatting, etc. was very new and I happened to know WAY more about it than the adults in my life (whereas now, my parents have iPhones and Facebook).

    Looking back on my choices as a 12-18 year old, I’m appalled by the dangerous situations I put myself in. It certainly was a typical teenage “Nothing can hurt me because I’m invincible and smarter than everyone” attitude. I’m grateful nothing bad happened to me. I gave photos (thankfully not inappropriate ones)to people I didn’t know, gave them my phone number, and even met up with a few of them. I thank my lucky stars that nothing bad ever happened to me. Because it could have and I wouldn’t be here to talk about it.

    My parents checked what I was doing, but I learned to be sneaky. Deleting things immediately after I read them, making people promise to lie to my parents saying they were my age and went to my school if I was checked up on, etc. It was a dangerous combination of me wanting independence, wanting to feel wanted, and predators knowing how to fool my parents/tell me exactly what I needed to hear.

    It’s very hard because I totally believe in giving children real-world experience and helping them navigate the tools at their disposal. But, the internet is a very scary place and you can’t monitor everything.

    There is no “one size fits all” answer for this question. I hope you figure something out that works for your family. Good luck!

    • I wonder how much we’re unfairly blaming on the internet… I did a lot of the same sneaking / lying, but the internet had nothing to do with any of it.

      I don’t remember using the internet to talk to my peers much. I still found my way plenty of drama and dangerous situations. At least when I was on the computer my parents knew where I was.

  24. The rule that a child must be 13 to have a facebook account might be arbitrary, but it’s still the rule. When my then-eleven-year-old daughter wanted a facebook account I didn’t have any problem letting her know that I was neither going to lie on her behalf nor was I going to allow her to do so. I didn’t consider this a difficult issue at all.
    And, really, “all my friends are doing it” (or, as she tried to pitch to me, “all my friends moms let them”) is called peer pressure – and isn’t that one of those things that we’re supposed to teach them to resist?
    She did have an e-mail account, which I monitored and both my mother and I had the password to. And she never had access to the internet at that age when there wasn’t an adult in the room or very nearby.

    My now-sixteen-year-old would much rather text her friends, or communicate with them via DeviantArt (she has it set to the most family friendly setting, I checked) than through facebook. She thinks facebook is boring. When she does go there, it’s largely to communicate with her grandparents, aunt, or other assorted far-flung family. Whether that’s luck or planning on my part, I couldn’t tell you.

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