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Children and social networking sites

Children and social networking sites

Social networking is a massive part of early 21st century culture. If we’re all on Mumsnet, Facebook and Twitter all the time, how much bigger must it figure in the lives of our children, who have never known a world without it?

Facebook says the minimum age for someone to start a profile is 13, but, hey, the pre-teen years are a practice ground for becoming a teenager, remember? This is all about starting to break rules – and fighting above their weight.

So, while there are various social networking sites specifically designed for under-13s (Moshi Monsters, Club Penguin), don’t be surprised if your pre-teen takes one look at them and puts his or her (virtual) nose into the air – certainly by the time they’re 11 or 12, anyway.

Pre-teens and social networking

Many parents worry about social networking, as the Mumsnet Talk boards attest. But some posters point out that those who worry most are the ones who understand it least.

So, if you’re petrified that your child is using Facebook prematurely without your knowledge, but have never used it yourself, what are you waiting for? Get stuck in, so you know where the real risks lie. But if you really can’t face it, then do look at our internet safety advice and get on sites such as CEOP, so you understand the potential risks facing your children.

Having said that, being one step ahead of teenagers – and even pre-teens, sometimes – is a contest we’re programmed to lose. More important than being up-to-the-minute savvy is making it crystal clear that the virtual world isn’t another world, it’s this one. And that means the same rules apply. In case your kids need reminding, these rules are as follows.

Children and social networking sites

Internet rules for pre-teens

  • Treat others as you’d want to be treated yourself – whether you’re offline, or whether you’re online
  • Bullying is wrong in the flesh, and it’s wrong on the web
  • Other people deserve our respect – their point of view, their beliefs, their background don’t give anyone a reason to automatically put them down or dismiss them

Meanwhile there are some extra rules for social networking, including:

  • Don’t give away identifying information online – your address, phone number etc
  • Don’t use your real name as your username – have an alias
  • If you don’t like something you’re sent by someone you don’t know, use the ‘report’ button to tell the site moderators
  • Keep in mind that although most users of a social network will be who they purport to be, there is a risk that some posters might be very different in real-life from their virtual profile

What Mumsnetters think about children and social networking sites

  • I think some people need to learn how to use the Facebook security settings and then maybe they wouldn’t be so scared of their children using it. usualsuspect
  • My children were on social networking sites from before the age of 13. I monitored them closely and there’s never been anything untoward on their walls, bar some truly appalling English, which makes me want to write to their parents/head teacher. SoupDragon
  • The ones who make me laugh are the parents who say they monitor their kids’ Facebooks… yes, of course they do. Well, the account they know about. Bucharest
  • I think teaching children to stay safe on the internet rather than banning them from it is the way to go. usualsuspect