How would you like to give your 13 year old the perfect gift? Well, I have found it… a Facebook Profile! If you think I am crazy, then keep reading and let me explain.
Ask any 13 year old if they are on any social network sights and the answer will most likely be yes. I have heard many kids state that as soon as they are 13, they are getting on Facebook. Of course, I have heard that many kids are getting on Facebook younger than 13. Unfortunately for them, Facebook has a policy that states: You will not use Facebook if you are under 13. If they are caught, their profile will be taken down. In addition, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) states that any website collecting personal information from anyone under 13 must have parental permission.
I believe as parents we need to enforce these policies. One reason they have this age requirement is that most kids under 13 are not responsible enough with posting personal information. And this brings me back to why I think you should give your child a Facebook Profile when they turn 13. If you handle it the right way, it can become a fun teachable moment.
When my daughter turns 13 in a few years, I will say, “Finally 13! I bet you’re ready to set up your Facebook Profile (or whatever the latest social network craze is). One of my gifts is to help you set it up, so let’s get on the computer!” Then I will teach her about privacy controls, her profile picture, posting personal information, adding pictures, videos and links. I will talk to her about what to do when someone she doesn’t know wants to “friend” her. I can show her the IM feature and teach her how to use it.
After we set it up, we can “google” her name and I can show her that her Facebook Profile picture is actually public and anyone will be able to see it. That means mom, dad, relatives, teachers, fiends parents, grandparents, etc. I will let her know her profile picture is important and it should be something you would show your best friend and your grandmother. I can show her the difference in what information is revealed by the different privacy settings. I will talk to her about the Facebook applications and I will tell her some of these contain viruses and malware. Then we have the Facebook fan pages and groups. I can show her using my Facebook profile the information that is available to others when you join a group or become a fan. These activities expose your picture and name to the other members that you don’t know. Some of the people in the same groups will see your picture and may try to “friend” you. I will ask her how she will handle that.
In addition, I will talk to her about private information. I will let her know she needs to be careful about what she posts. Even typical teenage posts can have consequences. I will remind her of the story about the girl that was upset her father couldn’t go to her school musical. She shared on her MySpace page that she didn’t want to work for someone like her dad’s boss, who yells all the time and treats her dad like dirt. After she posted it she realized her bosses son was one of her “friends”. A few weeks later, her father was fired. You can read about this story by clicking here in the Family Circle, Share Tactics article.
She will have to be careful about what her friends are posting too. I will talk to her about helping her friends stay safe online. Are her friends accepting friend requests from people they don’t know? If so, her posts may be seen by her “friend”. Are her friends posting pictures that may reveal too much? Locations, addresses, vacation plans, etc. all these innocent posts can have consequences.
As you can see, by giving your 13 year old a Facebook Profile for their birthday, it opens up the communication to online safety.
And that is why I am giving my daughter a Facebook Profile on her 13th birthday!
If you found this article informative, don’t forget to pass it on to others! All parents need reminders about online safety.