Is it OK for my child to use Facebook?

This is a question asked by parents to my colleagues and I on a regular basis.  Along with sex, drugs, and alcohol, social media use has also become part of the anticipatory guidance I discuss with adolescents during routine health exams.

Facebook®, by far the most commonly used social media site, has a minimum age limit of 13 years old in order to create a profile.  Although it is likely that thousands, if not more, pre-teens use the site by lying about their age or obtaining parent permission.

Recent data from facebook.com and insidefacebook.com states that there are 14.4 million users who are aged 13-17.

The average user on facebook spends about 15 ½ hours on the site every month and creates 90 pieces of content through status updates, pictures, likes, comments, etc.

Every day, approximately 50,000 accounts are deactivated by facebook® staff because they were created by children under the age of 13.

You don’t have to be a statistician to understand that even if your child doesn’t have a facebook account, they likely have a friend, sibling, or parent that does.

Are you “friends” with your child?

Parents of young children who use social media sites should friend or follow their children. Some children may be opposed to being friends with their parents on social media sites because it is not cool.

Tip: A rule that parents of tweens and teens who use social media should establish prior to allowing a child to sign up is that parents should always have the account name and password for their child’s account. Discuss with your children the dangers and long term consequences for inappropriate postings and pictures which are put online.

Many colleges and graduate schools look at potential students’ facebook profile and pictures while evaluating their applications. Always ensure that privacy settings are in place for your child’s account. Ask if they accept friend requests from strangers and discourage the practice.

Facebook depression

Dr. Megan Moreno, a University of Wisconsin adolescent medicine specialist, states that “using Facebook can enhance feelings of social connectedness among well-adjusted kids, and have the opposite effect on those prone to depression.”

Remember how you felt if you didn’t get handed an invitation to a birthday party of a friend in middle or high school? Children can become upset and even depressed by seeing postings and pictures of their friends having fun at an event that they were unable to attend or weren’t invited to.  These feelings can spill over into the classroom and affect school performance and social relationships. Parents should ask about status updates or postings which can be the first sign that their child is upset or depressed.

Encourage your child to tell you about “cyberbullying” happening to them or to a friend.

Questions for parents

  • What are your thoughts on adolescent social media use?
  • How will you handle your child’s request to join facebook®, twitter®, etc?
  • Do you monitor your child’s internet use?

Comment below or on Twitter @Peds_Doc

Have a topic you would like addressed? Email pediatricblog@gmail.com with your suggestion.