I can’t take credit for this answer, but thanks to Ryan Moreau of Kiwi Seminars, who spoke to our students and parents earlier this year, I’m happy to be able to share it. Here it is: As soon as a child asks to have a Facebook account, they should be allowed to have a Facebook account.
How can that be? Isn’t Facebook a realm for cyber-bullying, cyber-stalking and all other nasty things we want to protect our children from? Isn’t it a parent’s duty to keep their children out of harm’s way?
Like many parents, I felt so. When my oldest was in grade seven and started asking for a Facebook account, I said no, and told him all the logical reasons why it wasn’t a good idea.
Then he went and set one up anyway.
This is precisely why Moreau argues children should be allowed as soon as they ask. Facebook and other social media are part of the youngest generation’s world and they will join it with or without our blessing.
But there’s more to his answer. His most emphatic message is that parents must play an active role in their child’s social media activity from the beginning (you have the window of opportunity if you give permission for them to set it up, with you). Parents must sit side-by-side with their child as they look at every window, choose every privacy setting, and learn about all implications of its use. Parents must engage their children in ongoing conversation about their social media activity. And parents must let their child know that they are there to help if something uncomfortable, even extremely bad, is happening online…because they will come across those bad things we need to protect them from.
There is much more to the story than this. Social media has many upsides for all who participate, children and adults alike. But should parents “friend” their children on Facebook? Where in the home should children be allowed to interact online? What filters should be in place to protect them? These questions are becoming fundamental to parenting. Since most of us still have more questions than answers, consider inviting Ryan Moreau from Kiwi Seminars to your school community. Because whether we’re ready or not, we need the answers that will help us do what parents have always done – help our children thrive and stay out of harm’s way.
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When to teach the kids about social media is almost as delicate as deciding when to teach the your kids about the facts of life. When exactly is the right time? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Please post any comments you may have in the section below.