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.