For many parents, facebook is like a foreign country full of surprises. If you can’t speak the language and you don’t know where things are, it can be a frustrating experience. With the recent surge in both parents and youth jumping into facebook, I wanted to share some ideas about how we can prepare and protect our children. I’ll tackle several issues that have come up in conversation with parents I know.
How Old Should My Child Be Before They Get a Facebook Account?
Based on the terms of service for facebook, children must be at least 13 years old. I see no reason not to honor this. In fact, here are some reasons why I think it is a great idea.
- As a social network, the power of facebook is connecting with your friends who are already on the network. Most children under 13 don’t have accounts.
- What are we teaching are children about truthfulness if they have to lie about their birthdate to create an account?
- Most younger children are still innocent enough that they don’t see the danger in sharing personal information. Their pictures and status updates are available to everyone if you haven’t changed the default facebook settings.
- One word: Drama
- Children under 13 would have a tough time differentiating between legitimate people wanting to be your friend and those who are selling something. I even have a tough time. Just today, I accepted a friend request from someone who looked like a normal user and then clicked on their profile to find out that they were linking to porn. There are dangers online, and we must be willing to protect our children.
How Do I Prepare My Child For a Facebook Account
If your older child or teen already has a facebook account (and they probably do), then how can you talk with them and help prepare them and teach them proper online safety and accountability? I would suggest the following:
- Change the default privacy settings: Go to the facebook help section on privacy and learn how to set the privacy options. I would suggest changing the default settings on status updates, photos, and photo albums to make them viewable only to their friends. Also go into the privacy settings for their profile and change each option as you deem appropriate.
- Check their profile information: It is never a good idea for a child to share their address on facebook, so make sure personal information that could compromise their safety is deleted from their profile.
- Learn about Limited Profiles: You can create a friend list for those people you don’t know quite as well and assign them to a limited profile. You can further restrict what certain people see about you by setting this up. Check the help section for more information on how to set this up.
- Discuss with your child who to accept/invite as friends: Are you just going to add people who you know in person, or will you expand it out to friends of friends? What about people who you don’t know at all? As a cautious parent, I would suggest not adding someone if you don’t know them.
- Discuss the importance of accountability: As I mentioned earlier, there are dangers with inappropriate sites on the internet. I feel that the benefits of reaching the online generation far outweigh the dangers, but let’s help our children to see the importance of accountability. Encourage them to talk with their friends about the language they use online, about the pictures they post, and about the sites they visit. As a parent, take the steps needed to protect your child. It may mean that you look through the browsing history daily, it may mean that you install filtering software or accountability software, it may mean that you only let them on facebook in the family room with others present. Take the time to discuss and talk with your child, and come up with a plan that will protect them and teach them the proper use of the internet.
- Remind them that you can’t delete what you post: Yes you can delete a post or status update, but someone somewhere will have a copy of it. Think before you post! If you join a group with an nasty name, guess what, everyone knows. If you attend a party and pictures are posted, guess what, everyone knows. Encourage them to live a life of purity of Holiness. 1 Timothy 4:12 tells them that they should be an example to others. Teach your children that facebook is a mission field, with the entire world watching. What kind of example will you set?
What are some other questions you have? Leave a comment and we’ll keep the conversation going.
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How do you protect in this scenario: I've found that when someone on my friends list is tagged in an album belonging to someone I am not friends with, I am then able to look at the rest of the album, as well as their other albums, in which I would not otherwise have access to. How do you set the privacy settings so people cannot do that with my albums? And if you can get around this, what else can people get around if they really wanted to?
Great question. When you go to the Privacy Settings, click on Profile Information. Then go to Photo Albums and set the level of privacy you want. You can choose Friends only, Friends of Friends, or everybody. You can set this information for each photo album you have. In the scenario you share, it sounds like it is set to Friends of Friends.
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This is a question I'm struggling with. My daughter is 11 and wants a FB account. All her friends, from Christian School and church, have accounts. We've discussed whether or not it is okay to lie, and we have firmly established that is what she would be doing if she got an account and gave a false year of birth, just to be on FB. She agrees that is wrong to lie, and that by doing so she would be letting everyone who knows her that she lies. Plus, what about when she turns 13 and wants to have her real birthdate on FB? I looked at my niece's FB page and panicked thinking I sent her a Happy 13th Birthday card last year and she's 15? Then I realized, she must have gotten her FB page before she was 13. So now her age is forever two years older on FB. Frankly, I think that woudl stink, especially when you are in HS. (cont.)
Anway, we are still struggling because so many of her friends are on FB and I don't see a problem with it. I wish there was a custodial account option for parents to set up with their children. Frankly, most of these kids do not have their privace settings set correctly and are completely open friend to friend which gives me a chance to monitor them. There are a few safety concerns I see with the info that is contained in some profiles (for instance most teens have their high school class listed – Anytown High School '15), but I would make sure hers was not visible to anyone or excluded all together. (cont.)
This brings up another point, why does FB even have this restriction? It is so obvious from the pages that these kids aren't 13. Some have little blurbs saying I am 11 or 12 years old, or listing their year of graduation, etc. It's not just the 6th graders that I'm finding though, I am also seeing kids from my church who are as young as 6 or 7 with pages. I've even thought about posting to my status the question "As Christian parents, is it okay to allow our children to lie to get a FB page before they are 13?" Of course, I'd obviously be stepping on a lot of toes already out there. In the meantime, thanks for letting me vent about this without alienating a whole lot of people!
I can definitely feel your pain. I have a 11 year old daughter as well. Many of her friends are on facebook, and there is already pressure to fit in and act older. I'm reminded of James Dobson book titled, Parenting isn't for Cowards. As parents, our job is tough and not always filled with easy answers. The good thing is that you are making an informed decision. If she gets an account, you know your responsibility to monitor it and keep her safe. I wish more parents would be involved in that way.
One additional concern would be about the dangers of installing apps in facebook. It seems that is a major use of facebook by younger children. I have seen many children get facebook viruses lately due to installing bad apps. I hope facebook really cracks down on this and makes the site more secure. It's really getting annoying to see so many adults and children sending out messages because of viruses.
You can vent anytime here. Thanks for your comments and I wish you the best.