Q: My daughter has been away at sleep away camp all summer and unplugged – she will be starting 6th grade this year and all last year begged us for a Facebook account – because all her friends had one. What should I do? I am not even on Facebook.
A: We were asked this question many times…our answer: There is a reason Facebook says you need to be 13 years of age to have an account – at that age they feel a child can reasonably (note the word reasonably) understand the consequence of their actions and use the site responsibly.
· Does your 11 year old understand that what she posts writes or comments on can be seen by everyone (even people who are not her friends)?
· Does she understand the concept that people online may befriend her but may not be who they say they are?
· Does she understand that before she posts, writes or comments she needs to check first with you to see if it’s appropriate or ask herself – what I just wrote, posted or commented would I want my parents, principal, police or a predator to see it?
· Does she even know what a predator is (people that want to harm children)?
· Will she understand that some children and adults for that matter may comment, post or write things that are not nice…how will she feel if that happens…how will she respond?
These questions are very important because most children are not emotionally capable of understanding the above questions…and guess what…they are children and shouldn’t be. With that said….our recommendation
· Mom/Dad/Caregiver you get a Facebook account – understand how Facebook works, the INS the outs, the good and the bad. Once you understand you can introduce your daughter to it.
· Put important privacy settings on your account.
· Sit down with your daughter and explain the above concepts.
· Write a computer agreement together so she knows the boundaries…what is acceptable…what is not.
· Let her know that you will share the Facebook until you feel that she is ready for her own account.
· Once she is ready – she has to know that you will have the password to get in – will be checking it and if any of the above rules on the agreement are broken she will be off Facebook.
As with all our blogs – we stress the importance of communication with your children. But for this blog in particular we want to discuss active listening. If you are a parent your mindset hopefully is in a very different place then your child. What active listening does for you and your child is makes sure that you are on the same page…he/she understands you and vice versa.
So how do you actively listen?
Turn off your cell phones, blackberries, IPhones, TV, and Radio and actually have a face to face conversation with your child with no disruptions. (This often works well in a car and at the dinner table.)
Repeat back to your child what they have said to make sure you understand what they are really saying (remember that old joke “My child asked me where he was from…I started explaining the birds and the bees…my child says Oh I just wanted to know what city I came fromJ) Make sure you understand exactly what they are saying or trying to tell you.
Have your child repeat back to you what she/he retained about the safety issues on facebook in her own words. Make sure she understood these new concepts and gets the importance of why you are taking these steps with her.
Bottom line – it is our job as parents to prepare our children to thrive in today’s world. Teaching them these important life skills, and communicating – actively listening, is a daily part of our parenting. Be Informed. Be Educated. Be KidSafe.
We have been flooded with questions about back to school safety – so stay tuned there will be a part three. If you have a question you want answered..email us firstname.lastname@example.org