Readers Ask: Should Kids Use Facebook?

A what point did you allow your kids to use social media? My daughter wants to get a Facebook account, but I am not sure what age is appropriate.

Social media is a whole new animal and I am no expert on this one.

If you don’t have teens yet, trust me, that this is one area where having toddlers is easier than teens.

Social media is still so new that we have yet to see its affects on society in general and children in specific. Articles like these here and here which speak of children as young as 7 years old being addicted to social media make me cringe and want to throw my computer and all “hand-helds” out the window, bring them back inside, and throw them out again just for dramatic effect.

(Everyone needs a hero. This mom and her list of usage rules for her child’s new Christmas iPhone is AMAZING. This woman should get Mother of the Year, or something. )

I have a love/hate relationship with social media.

Social Media: 1950's style

I love checking into Facebook to see adorable photos of my friends kids and to read all of my favorite online subscriptions. I love keeping up with good friends and hearing their news. I love keeping in touch with my college-aged daughter and her friends.

I hate being bombarded with human nature every day on Facebook. Know what I mean? People who are self important really brag on Facebook. People who pride themselves in being know-it-alls are “know-it-alls on steroids” on Facebook. Facebook seems to brings out the best and worst in people…and then some. Some people live in dream worlds, others find boldness hiding behind a computer screen (my sisters and I dubb it the “small man syndrome”…big talk across the computer, not so much face to face.)

When our kids are Seniors in High School they are allowed to open a Facebook Account. We tell our kids that Facebook is just an extension of your words, and that they are accountable to God and us for their words.

Some things we’ve considered before allowing our kids to open a social media account:

1. Their maturity. They are responsible to God and others for what they write, post and cross promote.

2. Who their online friends will be. Yes, you did indeed read that right. If we feel a person is a bad influence, we’ll ask the kids to not “friend” them on FB. If we find that someone is always posting inappropriate pictures or things that are shady, we’ll ask them to defriend them. DE-FRIEND. Yup. We’re THAT kind of parent. {Insert low, fast, “drug company advertisement side-effects warning voice:”} “De-friending may occur for the following infractions: complaining or critical spirit about parents, church, school or other God ordained relationships in a child’s life, immodest or “loose-looking” pictures (button up your blouse–you’re a lady!) foul language, promoting of unwholesome activities, places or entertainment, or other bad attitudes in general.”

We really believe that God does care about your teens Facebook page. If you claim to be a daughter of the King, then, yes, even our kids FB is under His Lordship.

3. How much time a day they’ll spend on social media. You should set a reasonable boundary. My kids love it when I joke with them that they can spend as much time on media as they did in their quiet time. No, seriously though, you do need a time limit.

4. Their maturity in the faith. If you have a teen who is struggling, limiting social media may frustrate them, but might be a good for them long-term. They don’t need another distraction, and they might need to be shielded from societal norms. {I DON’T believe that ALL societal norms are “normal” at all.}

I am not even talking about shielding them from other struggling teens, but from adults on FB who should be a good example but who post things that are inappropriate. A struggling teen does not need to see an adult from their church who “likes” or posts immodest or inappropriate pictures of women. They don’t need to be bombarded with the hypocrisy of someone who acts one way on Sunday but then lives an entirely different life AND POSTS ABOUT IT Monday- Saturday.

So that’s what we do in our family. How do you handle social media in your family?

PS:We can’t blame new technology for today’s problems. Every generation does this. Yes, Facebook/Twitter/etc… is new, but so was the telephone at one point. It’s not the technology’s fault, but the user behind the it. (just like the gossip’s lips are to blame, not the actual telephone.) If you find your teen is distracted, distant, in the middle of squabbles or indulging in gossip online, you can’t really blame social media. These are heart and worship issues.

 

13 comments

  1. Tim says:

    Great points, Sarah. Or maybe I agree with you completely on this because it happens to be the same way we handled it with our kids. They are now 20 and 22, so there is not a whole lot of monitoring going on, but I hope we set good rules in place as they moved into things like Facebook, etc. Then again, we still pray for them to be wise in what they do with their time, including internet time.

    New Year blessings to you and yours,
    Tim

    • Sarah Beals says:

      Wow, Tim. You guys were MEAN parents. :) JK The teen/college years certainly have their own set of worries. It was easier when the choices were between watching Winnie the Pooh or Little Bear. I was just over at your site reading your apple cake recipe. I am going to give it a whirl. Happy New Year.

      • Tim says:

        You’re gonna love it and your family will sing your praises from the first bite to the last crumb, Sarah! (Or at least I hope so. Let me know how it turns out!)

  2. Wise suggestions, Sarah. As I’ve said before – I’ll certainly be talking to you about these things if/when we ever have kids! :)

  3. kait Santos says:

    Sarah, I do not envy that age group! Mine are in junior high, and I’ve already heard, “can we have facebook?? Everybody already is on it at school!” I’m apparently the “most strict mom” to my kids, but the facebook thing–for me– just isn’t going to happen anytime soon! I’m not so concerned about what my children put out there….. Mostly because they’d never get away with it, due to my intention to monitor like a sargeant, but I’m concerned with others. I have seen teens on facebook: I was mortified by the language (even the slang kind), the pictures, the venting over parents parenting (imagine that!), and seeing what THEIR friends post to them. I get that we now live in a world where keeping them in a bubble is nearly impossible, but I still feel like facebook for some parents is more of an occupier than anything else…. Something to distract their child with… That doesn’t require monitoring…….except it does! I think we’ve all asked this question after reading a child/teen’s post: “where are their parents????? Do they know this is posted???”
    I’m not at all claiming that MY kids “would NEVER” pull something that was eye-brow-raising over facebook when the time comes (believe me, they’ve pulled smaller offenses in life that I jumped on: I.e….. When my son’s teacher reported to me that he stole a cookie from the cafeteria–[NOT my proudest moment]…. I marched him down there the next morning, got the entire cafeteria staff to gather around us while he read a formal apology for his “theft,lack of good judgement, and poor display of the type of character God expects of him” and then made it right by paying for it tenfold out of his birthday money..also, had to read an apology to his entire class for displaying a poor attitude to his teacher….once in 5th grade, and once in junior high….with his dad watching him (not cool!;)! — I say these to show that I’m not in any way claiming to have perfect children!), but I will add this disclaimer to that: they may TRY to pull it and get away with it, but it will be over my dead body! Haha!
    I think as Christian parents, its best to gage the maturity level of each child, and their level of responsibility. I also…. And this is the most important one, believe that THEY are not ready if YOU (the parent) are not ready to commit to constant monitoring. Our children are an extention, or product of their home. I don’t want to be embarrassed by words, pics, or “likes” that my children put out there because it’s “not how they were raised”(could that be an older saying, or what?!;)
    Social media is scary. It is littered with filth. Like anything else, it can be used for good, or used for bad– there is really no in-between. Like a lot of things, once its out there, it’s impossible to take back (I’ve even put some minor things out there that I second-guessed later on). There’s a lot of responsibility that goes with having access to others with your words and thoughts, and also theirs. As parents, we’re still responsible for the old adage “be careful little eyes what you see” and “be careful little ears what you hear” (or in this case…. Read.)
    An age on facebook is a tough call…. I think like most anything else, the “right answer” requires prayer over it.
    Yikes! I am not looking forward to the teen years! :/

    • Sarah Beals says:

      I could not agree with you more, Kait, and YOU are doing a great job with your kids. Really. I mean that. Give those baby boys a kiss for me. :)

  4. Pauline says:

    I love your thoughts on facebook, Sarah, and will share them with my friends. Although my teen and almost teen are not yet allowed on facebook, when they are (before they go off to college!) I hope to make use of the guidelines you mentioned. I appreciate your humility and grace as you share some of the principles you have used in raising your children. As a mom who IS looking for more godly wisdom in training up my children in this world, your thoughts are practical and refreshing. Thanks!!

  5. Sheila says:

    I’m already sort of dreading when my kids are old enough for this to be in an issue. We’re still in the Winnie the Pooh vs. Little Bear stage.

    Part of the problem will be that some of the people I won’t want them to be FB friends with are family – extended family, but still. I see some uncomfortable conversations ahead of me. Although perhaps by that time the teens/young adults in question will have matured and won’t be posting/sharing that sort of content.

    • Sarah Beals says:

      Unfortunately, social media is a reality that we need to face. sigh. :) Yes, extended family can be a problem, especially if you have critical in-laws or others who use what you post as a way to gossip or criticize you behind your back. BUT, that is their sin, not yours. I would certainly shield my kids from that kind of relative and in our home, we do have a “no friending” policy for that type of person–family or not! (critical, gossipy, divisive people…we don’t invite that into our kids lives.)

  6. Susan McCurdy says:

    So far, three of my children have FB pages. We allow it when they graduate from high school. (But then they go to a Christian college where “No FB” is the rule…Ha!) That is sort of cruel isn’t it? I do let my younger ones look on my FB page and their friends can “friend” me. I have been “unfriended” by some of my children’s friends…because I comment if I think things are out of hand. (Are there any adults left in the world?) The social media discussion is the number one tension point in my house. I agree, Sarah, it’s a love/hate relationship and I have been heard saying “I think I am going to throw all of this stuff out of the house!” We had two people give our older kids their “old” ipods this Christmas…now the discussion is “take that out of your ear when you are around other people…”