Note From Keri Lyn ~ I just wanted to mention how thrilled I am to have Eileen guest posting this series on the blog! Eileen has been a dear friend for several years. She is an amazing mom and honestly THE very funnest person to visit Disneyland with. I love her passion for protecting our kids and families in social media and I am SO thrilled to have her sharing her expertise here weekly with all of us! Some of these topics are not the easiest, but they are definitely very timely and often eye-opening. I hope you will enjoy this series as much as I do!
This post is the ninth post in this series. Make sure to read Eileen’s other posts: How to Talk to Your Kids About Social Media, Questions to Help Start Social Media Conversations with Your Kids and Eileen’s other Smart Parenting articles here.
Smart Parenting: The Best Age for Kids to Start Using Social Media
In almost every meeting or class I conduct with parents, they ask this question: “What’s the best age for kids to start being on Social Media?” If you’ve read my other posts, you can probably predict my answer: I always say, “It depends.”
I know. How is this non-answer supposed to help?!?
Well, I’ve got more to say than just those two words. (Of course!)
Here’s some things to know about and consider:
The age requirement for most social media platforms or apps your children want to use is thirteen.
I know. I know.
“But all my friends are on Instagram!” yells your eleven-year-old.
You know that pop-up notice that you click “I agree” without reading it? Well, it says, “You must be at least thirteen years old to use the Service.”
If you are allowing your child to use the app, you’re also allowing them to break the rules to do it.
“Oh what’s the big deal? Everyone lets their kids on these platforms.”
It actually IS a big deal. When using Instagram or Snap or WhatsApp or any app, information gets collected about you as you use it. This information is used to market to you and is specific to your use and connections. Legally, an app can’t collect this data unless you’re thirteen.
If you agree to the terms of service and agree you’re “thirteen,” you’re agreeing to be marketed to and have information collected. That’s the deal. And this can be big for some families.
Some parents love hearing this age limit because it takes them off the hook. “I don’t make the rules, I just enforce them,” can be your answer when kids want to be on Snap and you’re wanting them to wait. Other parents find this information disturbing. They ask, “Why are so many parents allowing their kids on these platforms if they’re underage?”
The reasons are as varied as the families I teach, but one main reason is most parents just didn’t know. Well, now you do. So you can decide how you want things to work for your own family.
So why don’t I just answer, “Thirteen,” when parents ask this question in class? Here comes the “it depends” part:
I’ve seen kids with Twitter accounts and Instagram accounts and other accounts who are clearly not thirteen and they have positive, powerful experiences. One girl I met at a conference is nine and has more followers on twitter than I could hope for! She’s a book critic and connects with authors and writes book reviews for kids. She’s a huge success and makes a positive difference with social media every time she steps online. BUT her mom is co-author on the Twitter account. Her profile says something like “This account is used by me and my mom,” or something like that. Great idea! Anyone looking at the profile knows Mom is present and a part of what’s happening.
A friend of mine has their child on Instagram with a joint account with them so they can see and share photos with a cousin who lives across the country. This is another great idea -if your child has a positive reason to be on an app, be there with them until they are the age the app requires for use. Guidance can happen easily this way and lessons can get taught and learned together.
Sometimes I announce the age limit of thirteen in class and parents cringe. Their kids already spend a tremendous amount of time on a platform and they’re only twelve. Oooooops. The parents just didn’t know the rules.
What do you do then? Talk with your kids about why the age of thirteen is the rule and explain you didn’t know this. Help your kids know you’re going to be more active in knowing rules and helping them follow them. It’s never too late to start helping your kids be safe and responsible on Social Media.
When I moderated a Teen Panel for a school district recently, the high-schoolers all agreed they thought thirteen or older is a good age to jump into social media. These students all entered at different times and knew how difficult situations could be with online behavior. One students wished they had been older before they got online with apps. They knew waiting would have helped them be more mature and ready to be more responsible. Live and learn, right? I loved hearing the different age groups agree that waiting proves a good decision for everyone. This was a terrific group of kids!
I hope this helps with making a decision of when to start allowing kids onto Social Media apps. No matter what age your kids begin their use, be present, help them, ask questions, seek answers, get on Social Media yourself so you know the places where your kids hang out, and keep talking with your kids about your expectations for online behavior.
Keep being awesome parents, and as always, a big thank you to Keri Lyn for the privilege and honor of posting to her terrific, informative site!
Connect with Eileen
Like what you’re reading here? Eileen writes how she talks and she teaches how she talks and writes. You can hire her to teach parenting classes and perform assemblies for your school and she would love to help your community. Be sure to check out her website for more information.