Social Networking – what age is too young?


mum and baby on laptop

This weekend, we had family staying for a few days. My brother-in-law loves a good debate and if truth be known, so do I. This is often to the detriment of my poor, long-suffering sister-in-law who cringes throughout the entire conversation, attempting (many times), to change the subject! The thing is, whatever the subject matter, it never becomes personal, no-one reacts or gets offended, it’s just about airing our often differing opinions (even if they weren’t different to start with, one of us will choose the opposing view, all in the spirit of livening up the proceedings!)

Saturday evening’s topic of conversation was Twitter and Facebook. It started…..actually how did it start? (amazing how you forget that isn’t it?!)…..My BIL is very anti Facebook, mostly because he pays attention to the horror stories of people re-connecting with old flames, leaving their families, all (in his opinion) entirely the fault of Facebook. I am aware that this has happened to people and I guess with the arrival of Facebook and other social networking sites, it has made all this easier; but I’m not so naive to think that this wouldn’t have happened anyway. We talked about having all your personal information available for the world and whether this is a healthy environment for our children to be growing up in.

As you know, I am a big fan of Twitter, Facebook and blogging. I am not part of Linkedin (don’t get that one), have just recently joined Google+ ( jury is still out) and my Pinterest boards are present but sadly a little neglected. The OH’s family don’t know that I have a blog and I didn’t feel brave enough to embark on this particular hobby of mine (maybe save that for next time!) but I did attempt to put forward the positives of social networking. One of the main drives for me (apart from the fact that I’m incredibly nosey!) is that as a parent, I believe we need to keep up to date with the world that our children are living in. That includes moving with the times and not burying our head in the sand as to what is going on. Being a stickler for rules however, I believe that Facebook put the 13+ rule there for a reason and so far Tween 1 has accepted this (only 6 months to go and she is counting the days!) She doesn’t nag me to give in (not yet anyway!), as she knows that until reaching the dizzy heights of being a teenager, the answer will be “no”. In my BIL’s opinion, any age is too young for a child to be on Facebook and his children (currently considerably younger than ours) will never be allowed to join FB or indeed any social networking site.

A considerable number of Tween 1’s friends have been on FB since they were 10. In my opinion, this is too young for a child to be put into this vulnerable situation – they are not mature enough to be able to handle the potential dangers involved. Of course, these dangers can affect a person of any age (including adults) and I am well aware of the downsides to social networking and the harm it can do, if not used wisely. However, I don’t want my children to be completely ‘out of the loop’ or to begin resenting me or the OH, for making them feel different from everyone else. My plan would be to allow it, but under certain guidelines.

My daughter doesn’t have a smart phone (not since she lost the last one anyway!) so her FB access would be restricted to the family PC or my the Ipad. I don’t think that I would insist on being her ‘friend’ but I would ask for her password so that she is aware that I can acess her page and information at any time. As she grows up and hopefully becomes more repsonsible, maybe these rules will change (I hope to remain flexible on this). These decisions are being made at every stage of our children’s lives: a few years ago, I opened up an email account for her, I did so under the priviso that I had access to her account; a couple of years later she got her first mobile phone, again, she is aware that I may look at her texts. In reality, I only do so on rare occasions and in fact the OH disagrees with me on this subject – he tends to think that children should be allowed their privacy (probably a whole new blog post here!)

In concluding our debate, we all agreed that parenting is a long list of incredibly tough decisions. We are influenced by so many outside factors but ultimately, we have to make each decision according to our own morals and our individual children – undoubtedly making a number of mistakes along the way. During this process, it’s also important to respect others who may come to a different conclusion to you – attempting to persuade them that your way is the only way is also quite fun though!

What’s your view on children and social networking? Have you got children who are already in that world? What has worked/not worked for you?

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Discussion1 Comment

  1. Some of my children love social networking and others are not interested. I have not helped them with it but said that when they are old enough to figure out how to get an account they are old enough to have one. If they are a little below the facebook age but have worked it out then I am much happier with them on there friended by me than many other sites out there on the net they may also be able to find their way into!