HOW TO KNOW IF YOUR CHILD IS READY FOR FACEBOOK?
The first thing to remember is that every child develops socially and emotionally at different times and in different ways so there is no way to determine one appropriate age for every child. Clear benchmarks, however, can help determine whether you and your child are ready for this step toward maturity, as setting up a Facebook page increasingly becomes a natural step in today’s adolescent development.
#1 Your child has to be mature enough to understand how to behave in “public.” If you have problems with unpredictable or inappropriate behavior in public, that behavior is likely to extend to a public forum like Facebook. Before allowing your child to start online social networking, you should feel that you are entirely comfortable when you are together in a social setting.
#2 Is your child excessively shy or uncertain about having friends at all? Facebook, like any playground, can be a cruel place. It can also be a heartwarming place to share friendship. If your child does not already have a network of established friends, Facebook is not a good idea. Facebook should never become a means for seeking out new friendships or offering a forum in which a child who is already struggling socially might find even more criticism and judgment.
#3 Are you, as a parent, ready to monitor your child’s online activity every single day? At least for the first few months, you should be aware of everything thing your child posts and discuss immediately anything that is too revealing or inappropriate for a public forum. You can do this by being their “friend” on Facebook or having their email and password. Let them know that you are monitoring everything they write. When on Facebook, they should always have the sense that others are watching.
#4 Do other members of your family use Facebook? If so, be sure that your child is “friends” with as many family members as possible. Make this a requirement. It is not only an easy way to remind them that they must be careful and guarded about the things they write but it can also become a useful tool for family bonding. Before Facebook, for instance, my children knew very little about their cousins and distant relatives. Now they know birthdays, see pictures, and are much more connected with family as well as friends.
Facebook is not likely to go away anytime soon. Be open to talking to your child about the benefits and dangers of social networking any time they are ready to talk. Ask they when THEY think they should have a Facebook page and why? Ask them what they think is good, bad, or dangerous about it. It’s a good idea to get a handle on your child’s ideas about it now so that you will be ready when they approach you with the request “can I get a Facebook page”?