My daughter wanted a Facebook page when she was 12?. The first thing I did was have her research their rules. I told her if they said she had to be a certain age, then she had to obey their rules and wait until she was a certain age. I didn’t care if her friends already had Facebook pages. I wanted to show her and model honesty. You don’t lie about your age to get on and you don’t have your mom do it for you. You obey the rules/guidelines. They are there for a reason.
So imagine her excitement as her 13th birthday approached. She kept reminding me, “Mom, I get a Facebook page, right?” Luckily for me, I’d already been on Facebook for a couple years. I would recommend this to parents because it helps you really know what is going on and how to handle things. For me, it wasn’t like I had to tell my daughter, “You can only get on Facebook if mom accompanies you.” I was already there. Had already been there for a long time and that was a given and well-accepted fact by my daughter.
The first thing I did was tell her that just as with her email account, that her father and I would know her login information and password. This was both to protect her and to create accountability on her part. She was able to pick out her password and while she was at school on her 13th birthday, I created her Facebook account.
I went into her account and privacy settings and set them to where I was comfortable. For example all postings by her friends would be seen by me alone. I didn’t want church or family friends bothered by a bombardment of young adult posts and yet I wanted to know what was being said to my child. I also set things to where her cell phone number and hometown information would be viewable by only her. I made her privacy settings more limited.
I told her that I wanted to get on Facebook with her for the first time so that I could show her around and explain things to her. I told her that EVERYONE can see what you post and say so to be sure and handle herself with class and integrity. The things she says or posts are a reflection of her, us as her family and the Lord. So to keep that in mind.
I told her she was not to post any pictures or video without approval from me or her father. This helps alleviate any inappropriate pictures being posted. And she was not allowed to “friend” anyone who she had not met or did not know in person or face to face.
I reminded her that being on Facebook was a privilege. If it became abused or a problem, she would be removed.
Just as with a cell phone or computer, online communities need to be monitored with our children. They can be safe, fun places where our children can get influenced by Godly church leaders or adults – they don’t have to be dreaded, dirty playgrounds. It’s all in how you monitor and handle it with your children.
These guidelines may not be perfect but with our child’s maturity, trust-level, and relationship with us – they are what we started out with. I think if you give your child guidelines from the beginning, they will more readily accept them than if you give them to them after they’ve been a part of an online community for awhile. But knowing that I can help protect her in a small way gives me great comfort.
May some of what I did, help guide you with your own children and help them become responsible young adults learning how to monitor themselves online as well as learning to be accountable for their actions. You can’t buy that experience later on in life. It’s only earned with good teaching and moral instruction. Hopefully I’m on the right track with my daughter.