In a recent interview on the Today show, Michelle Obama said that her two daughters are not on Facebook. This little tidbit caused a mini flurry on the Internet. I don’t think it’s too surprising, given that the Obama girls are 9 and 12. And they live in the White House. My daughter is 10 and is not a member either. She knows about Facebook since she’s seen me using it. It is likely she’ll want to use Facebook at some point in the future. In fact I asked her how old did she think someone should be before joining? She said 13. I asked, why 13? “Well, then you’re a teenager”. Aha.
Will I let her join at 13? (Which by the way is youngest age for joining Facebook anyway, per their terms of agreement). I’m not sure, but if I did, I would likely impose the following rules, and would suggest them for any parents thinking of letting a younger teen join:
- Sign up using an e-mail account that I have access to.
- Share her Facebook password with me so I could log into her account if necessary. (This might be just initially to see how things go).
- “Friend” her so that I can see her updates and view her profile. (She’d see mine too, so I’d have to keep that in mind!)
- Set some ground rules, such as only accept a friend request from someone who you actually know.
- Go through all the privacy and account settings with her step-by-step. Be sure that the information she shares is only available to her friends. Not “Everyone”. Not “Friends-of-Friends”. More on this in a future post. But as an example, here are two screenshots. The first one is the Facebook recommended settings, the default setting. The second shows suggested changes.
Facebook’s Recommended Settings:
Jean’s Recommended Changes (at a minimum):
I’m sure there are other guidelines I’m not thinking of. Are you a parent of a young teen? Do they have Facebook? How do you help keep them safe?
Resources – these were sent just today by my daughter’s school. Tip Sheets from NetSmartz on social networking, cyberbullying and other topics. There are guides for parents, teens, and educators. What I like about these is that they don’t just use scare tactics and try to talk kids out of using these sites; they offer practical guidance and even suggestions on how to benefit from social networking. Check ’em out: