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 don’t have kids yet, but my general ideas are:

    1. Talk to your kid about the internet. This includes safety precautions, “the internet is forever,” and internet literacy/credibility/critical thinking.

    2. LISTEN to your kid’s ideas about the internet. This includes what their hopes and expectations are, things they’re nervous about, etc. Most kids are more likely to accept whatever guidelines your family decides will work best if they feel like they have a real say in it.

    3. Remember that if something about your arrangement doesn’t work for the kid, the kid will find ways around it that you may or may not find out about. So just forbidding internet use (or facebook) probably won’t work.

    4. Recognize that there CAN BE value in access to the internet, or at least that your kid probably can identify values, and their opinion is TOTALLY LEGITIMATE even if it doesn’t make sense to you or their values don’t match yours. Social interaction on facebook might seem trivial to you, but do you remember how your parents Just Didn’t Get It when YOU were a teen (or pre-teen) and your social life was THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER? Sure, it might not have been online then, and it might seem silly in retrospect, but socialization needs to happen at least partly on the kid’s terms.

    5. Bottom line: you’re trying to foster skill development. Critical thinking, how to be safe, etc. The more you can focus on supporting your kid developing those skills, rather than doing it for them (controlling or intensive monitoring, especially monitoring that isn’t transparent) the better off your kid will be in the long run.

    6. As for cyberbullying, just like any bullying: teach your kid not to bully, and teach them how to report when they are being bullied. Telling a kid not to do something because “you might get bullied” is often pretty stifling and can feel to a kid like they’re not being supported in who they are and what they do by the people they really need to be able to trust.

  2. The main problem with society today is lack of monitoring of technology (namely computers) for their children. i dont even think a kid should own their own laptop before maybe 16, let alone have a FB…there are better things they could be doing with their playing OUTSIDE, or socially in person with friends..not on their butts in front of a screen.

  3. Be glad that you even know about Facebook and to monitor her! I was on the Internet before social networking was very big, at age 12 or 13, and my parents really had no idea what was going on with any of it.

  4. Rules we employ for our 11 year old.

    – I am to know the password at all times and should I ever try to log on with the password and it has changed, then FB account will be closed.
    – Language and grammar will be monitored
    – No requesting adults to become her friend without my permission, including friends and family
    – No accepting adult friend requests, including friends and family, without my permission
    – No accepting friends that she does not actively know in real life. If I find one of question in my eyes, they will be deleted
    – No involvement in online arguments
    – No involvement in online badgering/bullying/harrasment
    – I have veto rights on all comments made and will remove anything I feel inappropriate, including her friends comments on her page
    – No FB (or internet use altogether) in any place other than common area
    – Internet use is limited to 30 min per day, this may be increased or decreased dependent on behaviour
    – No photo’s without approval, no tagging without approval
    – No address, phone, email details to be listed
    – No sending mama crappy game requests, spam or chain mail

    These rules are added to/adjusted as the need arises. They will continue for a long time after she is ‘legally’ allowed an FB page.

  5. I do not have children, but I am a third grade teacher and a couple of my students have illegal Facebook accounts. My greater concern for younger kids having Facebook accounts is the amount of drama/teasing/bullying type behaviors that come out on Facebook. I’ve had students in tears about gossip in our classroom getting on Facebook and their older siblings seeing it. Facebook is a lot like writing notes, except even further removed in a lot of children’s minds and it gives them a greater confidence in writing stuff they may never say out loud.

    This is not to say older kids don’t engage in this kind of behavior-as many 13+ kids do. I know when my younger siblings had Facebook and were in high school, my parents had their passwords and had friended them to keep an eye on what was going on. I would just weigh very heavily the pros and cons before going around the policy.

  6. I think even 13 is too young for Facebook I’m not against Internet use it can be a great tool but at the same time it can be a scary place have you thought about finding a site for kids online to find other children their age or school grade to have an e-mail pin-pal? that might satisfy her curiosity for FB ? Or maybe you can find another off beat mama on here in another area that would want to pin pal with actual paper and your kids can enjoy waiting for actual mail i always loved reciving mail and picking out special stationary 🙂 you guys could eventually meet up or something?

    Before you decide think in a few years youll be trying to have a conversation with her and shell have a smart phone and will be ignoring you to update her face book status anyway hahah it’s so annoying I wish we could all get off face book and reconnect in real life sadly at 25 i don’t feel excited or eager to hang out with old friends or make time to because what’s the point I see your new status or where you’re checking In every few hours anyways everyone looks so busy and what do we really have to catchup on of I keep getting your status update.

    Btw does anyone does anyone want to be my pin-pal? Hahah 25 mother of 2 year old daughter in Whittier CA 🙂

  7. I went online as soon as it was possible: emails, chats and stuff. I learned early on to avoid online creeps on my own, and how to avoid doing stupid stuff that would follow me through life, using pseudonyms and nicks and stuff. I learned how to use the internet safely and now I make my living working remotely for online-based NGOs that strive to make the web accessible and safe. I’m surely on the “yay internet” camp.

    Because of that, Props to all parents who are thinking these issues: I can only imagine how complicated it must be when we are discussing consequences in the future of something that just didn’t happen or wasn’t an option in the past. Without experience, we are all just like parents in the 60’s letting their kids play with depleted uranium, lead and mercury in chemistry sets.
    Most of those kids grew up perfectly fine, and perhaps became scientists, but now we all shake our heads and either think “boy, those were more fun then than now” or “what were they thinking!”

    Maybe 14 years from now all bosses and university admission people will all have had the crazy drunken photos tagged on facebook when they were young, and won’t put that much importance to that. Perhaps not having an account will be seen as a warning sign of someone not wanting to socialize and share. Maybe everything will be done through social networks, even homework, or perhaps we’ll be living a future where the internet came and went and is no longer a place to socialize. Who knows.

  8. My son has a Facebook page. I cannot remember if he was 13, but if not he was definitely 12. I told him to have an ‘obscure’ photo, and never to put up photo’s that could identify where we live or his school.
    He lost interest pretty quickly and now rarely uses it.
    I wonder if it is girls that are more vulnerable when using FB. Girls seem to find social networking online to be much more important than most boys (mine just game) plus I have not heard of boys being groomed online the way that girls have been. Girls use social networking to bully and ostracise quite a lot.

    So all in all I can see why you are concerned, and I would prob do the same in your position. But give you daughter some credit – it may be that she knows about the pitfalls, and already has a good grasp of internet stranger danger, and may just use it for the positive uses that we all hope they’ll use it for!

  9. I would say “no.” I don’t think young children need facebook or other social media networks. What happened to picking up the phone and calling your friend to see how they are doing? Facebook is “eaiser” yes, but not personal. You are having a conversation with a screen. You can’t hear tones or see facial expressions.
    More so, you can never really tell who is on the other side of the screen. Yes, maybe with Grandma. But lets say cousin Jimmy, he might be logging on and letting all of his friends look at the page. I know that sounds alarmist, but it is true.
    I also think that kids aren’t dumb. Heck, if I recieve a message and don’t want it lingering in my inbox I can delete it then empty the trash and theres no record of it ever being there. So the theroy that “i’ll check her account whenever I want..” well that just don’t equal safe to me. It is so easy to say “hey don’t message me until I say x,y,z first, I don’t want my mom reading this.”
    I think the internet can be useful. I homeschool my daughters and they have lessons online. They play on sites like PBS and starfall, but that’s where I draw the line. There is nothing in their life that needs to be posted online. If they want to talk to my mom, they call her. If they want to see pictures of my neice, we ask them to mail some.

  10. This would be a big fat no from me. I’m 21 so I had no internet for my childhood but it was a huge part of my teenage years. The majority of my friends ended up talking to strangers online. As did I, luckily I was a little older at the time so managed to stay safe but I couldn’t say the same for an 11 year old.
    Someone who is eleven does not need facebook. I’m not against facebook, it has become a completely necessary part of my life, I use it to keep in touch with friends all over the world and my university class has a facebook page through which pretty much all announcements are made plus useful links for study etc. However at 11 you don’t need all that. I have an underage cousin using facebook and I find it really disturbing. It is not fair that other people should have to regulate their content to suit people that should not be on there. She’s friends with older cousins who post things that are not age appropriate for her to be seeing.

  11. When I was in middle school, I avidly used the internet. Yes, it was definitely a big drama scene. All of middle school is a big drama scene. I would say to let your child have a facebook account, but first give them a serious lesson about the internet (ESPECIALLY about not saying things online that you wouldn’t say in person). Also, if you have a facebook, make it a prerequisite that your child be your facebook friend so you can make sure he/she isn’t up to anything crazy. Facebook and social networking sites are a huge thing for middle school-aged kids. But it’s definitely something you need to put a time limit on. The internet can be such a time-black-hole.
    On the bright side, congratulations if your child is asking for your permission to make a facebook! My sister-in-law just made her own without consulting her mom and she’s 11 as well.

  12. I have an 11 year old boy who I recently let join facebook. Most of his friends were already on facebook. I made it very clear to him the rules and set boundries. I have access to his facebook whenever I choose and I do moniter it regularly…… I have caught some things he has said or others I found to be questionable. Instead of deleting the facebook and banning him from it I have used these things as a learning tool. Facebook has opened up conversations between my son and I, and has also opened my eyes to see what he is going thourgh and experiencing.
    He is learning and I am learning and we are communicating. So far no harm has come from his facebook use and I feel it is only helping me see into his world a little bit, which allows me to parent him in the right direction.

  13. So I was just watching this high school robotics competition. It was sponsored by the CIA and NASA, and seemed pretty clear that both of those places (and probably quite a few other places) were looking at this kids as their future employees. Here were all these 16 year old kids who had build and programmed these super amazing robots, and had incredible college and job prospects because of it. They had clearly put many years into doing this–there’s no way any of them had picked it up last week. Imagine if their parents had eliminated their computer access except for direct homework projects. By the time they graduated college they’d be 10 years behind their peers–who do you think NASA’s going to hire, someone who’s never spent more than half an hour at a time on the computer or someone who has 4 robotics competitions under their belt and knows 6 programming languages?

    Using computers is like learning a language. There’s a certain period of life where you learn quickest, and you learn best by immersion. I think it’s as pointless to not let our kids get computer time as it is to only let them speak in one language. There are so, so many jobs out there that require knowing how to use social media–any child who’s behind their peers when they enter the workforce is going to be at a serious disadvantage.

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