In a perfect world, we could open a Facebook or Instagram account for our kids the moment they can snap a selfie. But we do not live in a perfect world. Parents have fears, some founded and others not, that make us say no to early social interactions. There are no hard-and-fast rules to social media ages, outside of the ones established by the networks, but there are concerns that need to be addressed pre-account opening.
Identity Theft Fear
Childhood identity theft is a valid concern for parents. In an article published by cyber-security company LifeLock, children are 51 times more likely than adults to have their Social Security numbers used by someone else. Children between 9 and 11 are in a definitive transition time. These early adolescents struggle with real vs. fake, as well as looking beyond the event to the consequences of their actions. This is one of the reasons Facebook has set an account age limit at 13.
You may wish to enlist the help of an identity theft protection service to prevent your child’s identity from being stolen. Along with this, you will want to have some important conversions and assess your child’s maturity level. Children are not always gullible, but this doesn’t mean they’re not vulnerable to cyber theft. If you feel that your child is mature enough for a social media account, teach him what to look for. Make it a rule that you always have access to the account. You may choose to check it often, or just in special circumstances.
The National Institute of Health cites a scary increase in problematic computer use — anywhere from 1.5 to 8.2 percent. Since most video game consoles have Internet access and a gaming community, we can add them to the list of social media networks. Minecraft, Halo and World of Warcraft all have extensive online communities with millions of participants. Blending video gaming and social interaction is a perfect combination for addictive behavior. To limit these issues, monitor time on the computer. But don’t just rely on self-reporting, use a stopwatch. Playing these games as a family will also lessen the risk of problem play and will make you feel more comfortable.
Anti-social online behavior has made it into the news because of horrible tragedies associated with bullying. Though cyber-bullying cannot be ignored, research has found that there are several mental health benefits to children having a social media account. Some of these include better grades, overall better attitude and a valuable network of assistance. In the cases where cyberbullying may be a concern, StopBullying.gov recommends that parents always know what their child is doing online.