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The Online Mom provides internet technology advice and information to help parents protect their kids, encourage responsible behavior and safely harness the power of technology in the new digital world. Social networking, photo sharing, video games, IM & texting, internet security, cyberbullying, educational resources, the latest on tech hardware, gadgets and software for kids 3-8, tweens and teens, and more.

Why you should say yes to Facebook

By Nicola Freeman

It seems like only yesterday that most parents regarded Facebook with a mix of bewilderment and dread: bewilderment because online social networking was a complete mystery, and dread because they thought Facebook was populated with predators and perverts!

Now, with over 100 million users in the U.S. alone, it's quite likely that parents are Facebook members themselves and know just as much about status updates and tagging as their tech-savvy kids!

Despite Facebook's increased appeal among adults, there are few signs that the site's popularity is diminishing with the younger crowd. Parents are still being asked "When can I join?" by teens and tweens eager to move up from the sanitized worlds of Club Penguin and New Moon Girls.

Although Facebook itself clearly states that the site is not for children under the age of 13, evidence suggests that many kids lie about their age and open Facebook accounts at age 12 or even younger.

Now, I am not condoning falsifying your child's age, but maybe there is a case to be made for accommodating your young teen or tween's request with some kind of supervised joint effort. The reason? Working with a young child on a Facebook account can provide what educators like to call a perfect "teachable moment": an opportunity to impart knowledge and important guidance in an atmosphere in which your child is very eager to learn.

Think about it. Would you rather have your child open a Facebook account without your knowledge and spend the first couple of years of their social networking lives stumbling across mean-spirited gossip and inappropriate photos; or would you rather teach them what's acceptable online behavior and what should be avoided at all costs!

If you open a Facebook account together, you can help them set up their profile, choose an appropriate photo, and make sure their privacy settings are properly in place. You can review their updates, see their friends' posts and let them know if you see something inappropriate.  

Plus, parents of younger children have a one-time opportunity to "friend" their child on Facebook; an opportunity that's unlikely to be there if you wait until they reach 8th grade.  Even if you fade into the background as your child gets older (and avoid commenting on everything you see!), you will still be able to watch over your child's Internet development, as well as keep an eye on who they are hanging out with!

So next time your child asks you if they can have a Facebook account, think twice before you say "No". It could be the start of a beautiful online friendship!

Comment by Ann, posted 9/20/2011, 8:01 AM:

Although I must agree with Cindy that when the TOS says that children should be over 13 years of age to join Facebook we should not let them falsify their age online. We are just indirectly abetting them on to do the same in other areas as well. But on the other hand, tweens should be allowed to join facebook because it is less gimmicky and more straight-forward when compared to most of the so-called social networking sites for tweens. On the whole, I agree with this article... Good job!
Comment by Yaimy, posted 11/18/2010, 7:27 PM:

This is a great article, we were discussing this at work the other day. It has helped me realize that I have to at least consider the Yes!
Comment by Sarah, posted 11/2/2010, 12:33 AM:

As much as we want to protect our kids from all of the ugly content that is available on the Internet, social networking is here to stay and whether you approve of sites like Facebook or not, chances are your child is already on them or one day will be. Your instinct may be to ban your child from such sites, but as we all know, that just makes them more enticing. . If they want to find something out, they will do whatever it takes to get it, whether that means going to another computer at a friends house, or getting the help of a friend to help bypass whatever settings you have on your computer.
Comment by Kim, posted 9/4/2010, 6:37 AM:

Personally, I don't believe in letting tweens on social networks that aren't set up specifically for kids. I've checked out what kids from my child's school are doing on FB. While there are some that have perfectly fine walls, others are filled with age-innappropriate material and are linked to some adult friends whose material is not child friendly. It's all well and good to monitor my kid, but when the majority of parents DO NOT do the same, what's the point?
Comment by Amy Smith, posted 1/25/2010, 9:48 PM:

Great post!!! I wonder how we can keep the kids safe on Facebook -- I see you wrote something about privacy settings -- have you covered anything about specific, easy ways we can set them up in a safe way?
Comment by TheOnlineMom, posted 1/24/2010, 10:38 AM:

Cindy - Nicola's point has more to do with the fact that we, as parents need to be there from the beginning in order to provide the guidance required. If your child is close to being allowed on Facebook and he/she really wants to do it, I don't see anything wrong with getting started a little early. Think of it this way: if you want to take up parachute jumping, your first couple of jumps can be Tandem Jumps allowing you to get the experience within the protective embrace of an expert. Monica
Comment by Cindy Schultz, posted 1/22/2010, 10:50 AM:

It is NEVER right to lie about your age or teach your child to lie about theirs. The TOS says 13 years of age for a reason. When parents allow children to lie about their age they are setting a precedent that it is ok to lie and it isn't. I read this post hoping to be able to share it with my friends who are allowing their children to sign into Facebook long before they are old enough (8-10 yr olds). Unfortunately, I feel you have let me down on this one.
Comment by Cathy H. @frugalgirl, posted 1/22/2010, 10:45 AM:

Seems like you wrote this for me! I tweeted about my struggle this morning. I allowed my younger-than-legal son join Facebook once he entered 6th grade in the fall. He knows I will log in periodically and check on things...I see that he does well for the most part, but am starting to worry that he is being treated badly by some other kids from school.I don't want to be overprotective, but I also don't want him teased. I am so torn...I only learned of this after I logged in.(not because he shared)
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