I was happily scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed when a question in a homeschool group caught my eye. I read the question with interest and a thoughtful response was at the ready…until I started to read the responses to this question. That’s when my heart sunk. I left the dialogue feeling discouraged and disheartened. I had noticed some ‘red flags’ when the original asker of the question replied to some of the quick and thoughtless responses. How could no one else see these flags that were waving right in front of my face? Did no one see the deeper issue? Or is it all about rules and regulations? My oldest has social media accounts and our decision for allowing her on social media was completely different from what was expressed in this conversation. This is how we decided: 5 Telling Signs Your Child Is Ready For Social Media.
The question posed was at what age is it ok for a child to have social media accounts. This answer can seem easy when we know that with most social media accounts, a child has to be at least 13 to have one. So, anyone under 13 should not have an account. That settles part of the question. But, I don’t really think that age has as much to do with the decision beyond that.
Rules, Rules and More Rules
My daughter got a Facebook account a few years ago. The rule was that she could be friends with only people we know and she always had to ask before ‘friending’ someone. She was totally happy with this arrangement. I mean, she really just wanted to play Farmville with my husband and me 😉 so our rules were not a big issue. However, as she got older and wanted more ‘friends’ and additional social media accounts, we had to really consider the issue of if she was responsible enough and prepared for all that comes with social media. She still had to ask us about adding people and accepting requests. She had to give us her login information. And she had to be ‘friends’ with my husband and me on her accounts. My daughter was completely fine with these expectations. There was no argument about it whatsoever. And that is how it continues to this day.
Going back to the Facebook newsfeed conversation, I mentioned that the red flags shot up pretty quickly for me. I easily saw that the social media issue with this person’s daughter went much deeper than simply age. She expressed that when she stated the rule of mom knowing the daughter’s login info for social media accounts, the daughter accused her of spying on her.
Why does this raise a red flag? Because the social media issue is just a surface problem, indicative to a much deeper dilemma of trust. The lack of it.
Trust between parent and child is vital, especially when trekking through the teen years. If trust does not exist, as it clearly did not in this case, then the root needs to be discovered and dealt with. Healing needs to take place. Lack of trust should not be a typical problem in the Christian family. But it seems to exist far more often than it should. If that is the case in your family, don’t blame the ‘rebellious teen years’. Have the courage to dig deeper and find the root. And then deal with it.
Sign #1 – If there is strong mutual trust between parent and child, then your child might be ready for social media.
Teens Gone Wise
My daughter constantly displays wisdom in dealing with online interactions. Just today she shared with me about an inappropriate photo she saw on her Instagram feed. She took the initiative to ‘unfollow’ this person because she knew that further viewings of inappropriate posts might cause her to sin. This tells me that she is mature enough to handle these kinds of issues with wisdom and discernment.
We have discussions regularly about Internet safety. Sarah is very purposeful in ensuring her safety online. She understands the importance of being wise with what links she clicks on, whom she follows or friends, what she looks at, to whom she gives personal information to (no one!!), and with whom she interacts with. I have no misgivings here at all.
If she has any concern whatsoever, she comes to me immediately. Most of the time, her concerns are nothing to worry about.
More Red Flags
Another red flag that was raised for me in the Facebook question was when mom admitted that her daughter had ‘gone under the wire’ and had friended fake fiancés and men she did not know, which lead to incredibly serious problems and risked this girl’s safety. The fact that this girl was not wise in her dealings – and the fact that she hid what she was doing – is alarming and is, again, indicative of a much more serious and deeper issue.
Sign #2 – If your child understands the implications of social media and she is generally wise and discerning, she might be ready for social media.
Teach Proper Use Of Social Media
I’ve had some training in Internet safety where I learned that everything a person puts on the Internet is there forever. Yes…FOREVER. Even if you delete it, it is there, somewhere. I teach my kids that they are to use social media for the glory of God. If what they post, read, like, or comment on is not glorifying God, then they should seriously reconsider their interaction. Please note – this does not mean that all posts and such should be directly about God – think Philippians 4:8.
However, this does mean that you also need to be using social media responsibly and with wisdom, glorifying our God.
Sign #3 – If you are teaching your child appropriate use of social media and modeling proper behavior yourself, then your child is might ready for social media.
Online Safety Is A Priority
Teach your child the importance of online safety, discuss it often. Check in on them to make sure everything is alright. Let them know that if there is ever any problem, they can (and should) come to you immediately. If they are concerned about anything, come to you.
Become educated on how online predators work. Know how they groom, how they work, where they ‘lurk’. Make sure your children know what to look for as well. The White Hatter may be a helpful place to start. Know how to keep your kids safe and teach them how to keep themselves safe.
Many parents simply lay out the rules of Internet use like “Don’t give out personal information” and they fail to explain why. On the other extreme, parents eliminate all use of technology in order to keep their kids safe.
Don’t wait until your kids are grown and out of the house! Don’t hope that when they are adults, they will just ‘know better’. Teach them now.
Sign #4 – If both you and your child is knowledgeable about online safety, then your child is might ready for social media.
I pray for my kids’ online interactions just about every day. I pray that they will have wisdom and discernment. Prayers of protection cover my kids as they navigate the Internet. Pray for your kids. All the time. In every way.
Sign #5 – If you are praying over your children in this area specifically, then your child might be ready for social media.
It’s Not About Age. It’s About Maturity.
The question was about the age of a child having access to social media. However, when we phrase the question like that, we assume that there is a level playing field with all 15-year olds or 16-year olds, for example. This simply is not true. I have seen many 19-year olds with less maturity and wisdom than my 10-year old.
In that Facebook discussion, many moms said that their child would not be allowed social media until they were 16…or 19 (YIKES!). Just because your child turns 16 (or 19), does not necessarily mean that he or she is ready for social media. Let’s start using wisdom and discernment ourselves. Look for the fruit in your child’s life. Gauge their readiness on their maturity, wisdom, and discernment. Not on their age.
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