How Young is Too Young for Facebook?

Would you let your first-grader on social networking sites meant for adults?
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How Young is Too Young for Facebook?

Would you let your first-grader on social networking sites meant for adults?

-Melissa Stanton

Girl with laptop

I was surprised to learn recently that one of my daughter’s first grade classmates is 13 years old.

What? That’s what I said. But she’s on Facebook, and, as we all know, members must be at least 13 years old to join. I discovered this first-grader on Facebook while visiting her mom’s page – I discovered she was “friends” with several of her kids.

Of course, this Facebooking first-grader isn’t 13. She’s only 7. Her mom, who’s a (real-life) friend of mine, spends a lot of time on Facebook and she set up accounts for some of her curious kids. Harmless? I don’t know. Between us, I’m creeped out by friend’s Facebook casualness. Her kids’ real birthdays and pictures are visible on the site. While the privacy settings have been enacted for some of them, the security controls haven’t been enacted for all of her children. If I printed the unsecured children’s names here right now (which I won’t), you could scroll through their walls, see what games they’re playing, and see the photos in their albums.

(Common sense message to parents who choose to set up Facebook pages for small children: Don’t use a recognizable photo of the child as her head shot, and don’t make the kid’s birthday and geographic location visible to the public-at-large.)

Read A Parent’s Guide: Social Networking
Do’s & Don’ts

Unlike my friend, I won’t be setting up Facebook pages for my twin first-graders. In fact, I’m glad my girls aren’t aware enough about social networking to even ask me for their own accounts.

My son, however, just started middle school. So like other parents waiting for the ball to drop, I’ve had think about “How young is too young for Facebook?” Or, put another way, “At what age is a child old enough for Facebook?” (Or, put yet another way, “Am I old enough for Facebook?” An argument I had on Facebook with a friend about politics has me second-guessing my use of online social networking.)

According to Linda Criddle, author of Look Both Ways: Help Protect Your Family on the Internet and founder of LookBothWays, Inc., parents should respect the age guidelines of the online service their child wants to join. “Doing otherwise teaches children that it’s OK to disregard the terms and conditions of the service, which is a message kids should never be taught,” she says.

I can totally get behind that advice, and for the parent who needs reinforcements while rule-setting, let the powers-that-be at Facebook be the heavy. (Mom/Dad: “Sorry, you can’t have an account. The site requires that you be 13. We can all get in trouble if we’re caught.”)


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0 thoughts on “How Young is Too Young for Facebook?

  1. khc1114 says:

    Yikes! Facebook in first grade?!?

  2. jfofdsf2 says:

    I am wondering why the author of this article felt it necessary to slam dunk Tiger Woods? I am ashamed for her that she felt the need to make scathing remarks about someone when there was no cause to do so. Her comment did not in any way improve her article, it only showed that she is possibly a non caring, vengeful woman with a lot of anger; who uses the internet as her personal outlet for hate.

  3. karen miles says:

    Hi,

    I Have kids of my own and didn’t like the whole “unsafe” virtual socializing! I get that she needs it, and she deserves it but not “unmonitored” doesnt matter how well behaved she is. A friend of mine told me about another website Tweegee.com, for kids in that age group! It is really great, it has virtual worlds, messaging,email, games, articles, folders for sharing pictures (that get approved- not like facebook or myspace!!) an approved vocabulary throughout the site, so NO personal information can be given out! And my kids LOVE IT! I would pass this on for parents who can’t sleep at night!! I would suggest giving your kids all the virtual tools they need, but “age appropriate” is key!

  4. alterego says:

    I’m glad Facebook wasn’t around when I was a teenager — I would have been nothing but trouble with it.

  5. darkshadow300200 says:

    I think that facebook is merely a way to pick up people, and there are way too many young people on facebook and all those “social” sites. Kids should be kids and not have to resort to the internet for friends or communicate with friends that way. play with them in person or talk to them on the phone. this internet thing for kids is too early. I dont care what people think of those comments, it is for the benefits of the kids who may come across a lot of idiots online.

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