As we celebrate Social Media week, I share one of the most common questions I receive from audiences on social: what is that magic age where you release your child into the social-sphere? I hate to break it to you, but no one answer will work for every parent or for every child. The most critical variables rest in the maturity of the child and the ability of the parent to trust their young adult to stay in guardrails you set.
Our children are growing up as digital natives and that is a great thing! By the age of one month newborns have social shadow from folks posting photos, name and birth information in their networks. So, we cannot hide from this new truth. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology, more than 60% of 13-17 year olds have at least one profile on a social networking site, many spending more than 2 hours per day on social networking sites. More than half of adolescents visit a social media site more than once a day, and 75% have cell phones. Here are 10 questions for you to consider in determining the age for your child:
- Are you ready to join every network your child joins? Parents need to experience each social network personally, whether you want to or not!
- Does your child have a healthy sense of self? If that answer is “no” they are not ready to enter networks where any unmet emotional needs could make them vulnerable.
- Are they independent thinkers or do they do whatever peers tell/ask them to do? If they are prone to not apply critical thinking, they are not ready.
- Do they understand the difference between an advertisement and an interaction? Most digital destinations make money on ads and understanding subtle differences is an important distinction.
- How much time each day will you allow your child to play in digital spaces? Clear expectations are critical on time of day and where you will allow digital interactions.
- Is your child willing to share their passwords with you and have you monitor their profiles, if you ask?
- Does your child see this as a privilege or an expectation?
- Does your child uphold healthy boundaries of what is private and what is public?
- Is your child ready for their first employer, teacher, principal or their grandparents to read every text and post?
- Would a contract with your child drive a healthy conversation? The action of signing a contract binds them to behaviors such as sharing with you if something happens that should not of in the digital space.
Our daughter cannot join any social network until she is 13 (she says it is unfair btw), and we will have her sign a contract, as she did when she got a smart phone. She has shared one occasion of something inappropriate happening online, and due to that maturity we feel she will be ready in three years; but again, each parent needs to consider a number of variables in making this decision. Tell us other questions you are considering….