A couple of years ago, I heard my then-ten-year-old niece ask her dad why can’t she be on Facebook just yet when her classmates already are. Now that she is deemed “old enough” to use the social media platform, I personally don’t think 13 is quite about right just yet. Don’t tell my brother!
While some allow their children to be connected to the world under teenage years, with supervision in setting up their accounts and having their usernames and passwords, the perils of the internet are more real more than ever before:
Child pornography, cyberbullying, the peer pressure of fitting in, premature romance – the list goes on. With our already digitally-savvy kids knowing what to tap on screens more than we do, here are key questions to answer before giving them the green light.
Does my child pass the age restriction of the particular social media platform he/she is interested to engage in?
For Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other platforms, a user should be no younger than 16 to sign up. If you and your child need to key in a white lie to get past this, ideally and legally he or she should not be able to access the channel at this point in time.
There is no age verification process on social media, and even if the child’s device is under parental control and other restrictions, we cannot really ascertain what are sifting through their innocence via their media feed. Giving the kids your digital age consent though they are not yet in that level means you are granting them the authority over their actions and reactions online. Seem pretty heavy for kids younger than 16, right?
How is my child – relationally, socially, emotionally, and morally?
This question is crucial. If your relationship with your child is civil, so to speak, most probably the boundaries won’t be just as clear. Any streak between you and your child will be vented out at some form on social media. It may not be a hate post or something you could read, but it will somehow show via online behavior.
My two cents on this would be: Whatever comes in between you and your kid relationship-wise, deal with it first. Social media is a way easier subject compared to that.
Is your child socially confident and compassionate? Are there observable emotional or mental issues like anxiety or depression? Can he or she take moral cues and show good values even when you’re not around? Answers to these questions can help you assess whether your precious one is ready to take on what’s online.
Is my child responsible for his or her actions?
Before answering this, parents need to determine first the reason why the child wants to be connected to the digital world. Is it for easier communication with friends and family? Is it for entertainment? Content creation? Curiosity?
Having honest conversations about these will drive you towards the child’s sense of responsibility. And if something your kid posts or engages online happens to backfire or turn into upsetting circumstances, will the child be able to handle the consequences well? Will he or she be willing to tell you? In turn, will you be open to listen and help without judgment?