May 9, 2011

When Should Kids Be Allowed To Use Social Networking?

How young is too young for children to be allowed a social network presence?

Despite age restrictions on some media sites, a new survey reveals the number of US parents who would allow children 10-12 years old to have a Facebook or MySpace account has doubled in a year, Reuters is reporting.

An online survey of about 1,000 adults by Liberty Mutual's Responsibility Project found 17 percent of US parents had no problem with a pre-teen child using a social media site, compared to just 8 percent a year ago.

Eleven percent of parents admitted to using social media sites on behalf of a young child or even an infant. Facebook, by far the most popular social networking site, has an official policy of not allowing users under the age of 13 to open accounts.

It does not take much browsing to find users under that age however. Whether these profiles are monitored by parents or not is difficult to ascertain.

"More and more parents are allowing their children to have a Facebook account or to have more online activity at younger and younger ages," Janet Taylor, clinical instructor of psychiatry at Columbia University at Hospital in New York, told Reuters.

"It's not alarming. I think it means we need to be aware of what is going on and how to best utilize social media," she added in an interview with the news agency.

With an estimated 500 million members, Facebook, was the most popular social network among adults in the poll. Nearly 90 percent used it frequently, followed at a very distant second by LinkedIn, Twitter and MySpace with 6 percent.

For better or worse, social sites are going to be with us and the online world is becoming more available every day. Short of banishing the internet from the life of your child, it is recommended that you learn to live with it responsibly and discuss its proper place and use with your child.

Discuss specifically about cyber bullying, sexting and the pressure that social media use can put on managing time. Consider the need for a "Ëœfamily online-use plan' that stresses citizenship and healthy behavior.

Also be aware of the need to supervise their children's online activity, and to do this actively, by participating and discussing it with them, and not just by using monitoring software.


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