Many websites especially social networking sites have age restrictions, most age 13. Are tweens and teens paying attention to these restrictions when they log onto these sites? Do they even know about them? Do parents know if their children have profiles on these sites?
According to a Cox Communications Study, 34% of 11 and 12 year olds have profiles on social networking sites. An iStrategyLabs study revealed the number of kids ages 13-17 using Facebook grew from 5.7 M to almost 10.7 million from 2009 to 2010. Even when tweens know about the age restrictions they sometimes lie about their age to get online and age verification technology is ineffective and easy to manipulate.
Parents, you need to be involved in your child’s online life because these sites are not going away – in fact, they are getting more popular with children at younger ages. As a parent, like it or not, you need to know social networking is one of the primary ways that kids communicate with their friends. And it’s not likely to change just because these sites post age restrictions. Social Networking is a new reality for today’s parents. I certainly didn’t see “How to deal with Social Networking sites” when I looked in my “How to Raise Kids” book. It’s hard to believe that Facebook has only been around for six years.
The best way to learn and grow with our computer savvy children is by being involved and knowing what they are doing online. Being involved gives you a great opportunity to teach your kids about appropriate and responsible behavior on social networking sites, including behavior associated with cyberbullying. Kids are not “all knowing” about life even though they may believe they are when it comes to the computer. Parenting online is no different than parenting offline. We teach respect and manners starting at a young age, and it’s just as important that we teach online respect and manners, too. Parents need to pay attention to what their kids are doing online, teach important behavior skills and intervene when necessary.
Sit down and talk with your child about social networking sites. Do they have a profile on one of these sites? Are they “under-age”? If not, are they using the privacy settings as they should? Are they providing identifying information online? These are all questions you need to ask not just today but frequently.