A friend request from your ten-year-old neighbor may not come as a big shock, but more and more people are beginning to question what age to draw the line. The issue has been fueled by the recent leak that Facebook is considering dropping the age restriction from its site (which require users to be at least 13 years old). One of the ideas Facebook is toying with involves linking children’s accounts to their parents, which will allow adults to supervise their children’s activity. Connecting the accounts will also allow parents to control their child’s settings, specifying what people are approved “friends”, and which features the child can access.

Safe for Children under 13 to have Facebook Accounts

Many strongly oppose young children on the social networking site because of the real and dangerous issues it presents. Let’s review the threats that arise from letting your tween socialize on the internet.

  • Though Facebook touts it privacy settings, you may develop a false sense of security about how safe your (or your childs) information really is. An abundance of cases have caused people to wonder just how protected the site is from criminals, internet bullies, and sex predators. Countless tutorials and videos can even be found on the web, which instruct viewers how to hack Facebook accounts. 
  • Chances are your children will be exposed to inappropriate content intended for a much older audience. Your posts may be clean and kid-friendly, but you can’t guarantee that of everyone else. Whether it’s a picture, video, or even just an adult discussion, a wide range of consequences may result. 
  • Children are generally not ready for an uncensored platform to spew their thoughts from. Immaturity and social pressures can lead children to make very unwise decisions about the things they write to their peers. Accounts can be created with false identities, allowing children to target a classmate, or bully and harass kids behind an anonymous name. 
  • Without children on our networks, adults will be able to communicate with increased freedom. Facebook was originally intended as social networking site for college students, and gradually expanded to the entire adult population. By adding children into the mix, the purpose of the network changes and the experience is stifled for all users. 
  • Children benefit from having clear boundaries set, especially when it comes to separating them from the outside world. Many parents do not realize that figurative wall of protection crumbles when they allow their kids to have a Facebook account.  Children’s privacy should be a top priority, and we should do all we can to defend it. 

While strong evidence exists to prohibit children’s use of the site, the reality is that most 12-year-olds already have accounts. In fact, the company admits an astounding 7.5 million users are under the age of 13. With access to the internet on nearly every corner (and every phone), truly preventing your child from utilizing the site has become close to impossible.  The good news is there are still measures that can be taken to ramp up your child’s safety.

  • Teach Your Children Internet Safety

You teach your children not to talk to strangers in real world settings, so make sure they understand it is every bit as applicable online. Pedophiles and internet predators are real and precautions must be taken. 

  • Have Your Own Account

The best way to see information others can see about your child is to view their profile yourself. If you don’t want your child knowing you’re snooping, an account can even be set up under an alias. 

  • Supervise Their Activity

Make sure to set privacy settings for your children that prevent too much information being displayed publicly. Keep tabs on what people your child is befriending and communicating with. Let them know you will be checking in periodically, which may prevent them from making unwise decisions. 

While we want to shelter our children from every danger and threat, the reality is our world is changing. Our best hope is to educate our kids about safety and appropriate internet use, and keep a close eye on their activity.

Elli Bishop is a writer for the home security industry.  She likes to blog about family safety, home security and general home improvement tips.  To read more of Elli’s work, check out NetTips, a blog where you can find more security tips for your peace of mind.

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