When Should Kids Be Allowed to Use Social Networking Sites

Social networking sites have become a way of life for teens today. Sites like MySpace and Facebook allow teens to chat with friends, share photos and videos, support causes and play games. While all of those activities sound innocent enough, these types of social networking sites are not without danger. Posting a profile can expose your child to potential cyber hazards, such as Internet predators and cyber bullying. Before allowing your child to post a profile and use a social networking site, it is essential to make sure she is old enough to use them responsibly and safely. But how can you tell if your child is ready for social networking?

Check Age Limits
The two most popular social networking sites, Facebook and MySpace, require that users be at least 13 years of age. However, this does not mean that all 13 years olds are ready to use these sites. Before allowing your young teen to join, made sure he is old enough to understand the potential dangers involved, and that he knows how to keep himself safe while online.

No Identifying Information
Make sure your child knows not to reveal any identifying information about herself, such as her full name, school or address. It is best for kids to use a nickname, or just their first name when making a profile page. Make sure your child knows not to "friend" anyone she doesn't know in real life. Remind her that online friends are not the same as real-world friends, and that people can pretend to be someone they're not. Personal information should never be given to online friends, no matter how well you think you "know" them.  

Long-Term Consequences
It is also essential to make sure that your child understands that the Internet is visible to everyone, everywhere. Anything he posts on his page could possibly be viewed by anyone in the world. It is easy for younger kids to feel like what they are posting is only going to be viewed by their own friends, but in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Be sure your child knows not to post anything on his profile page that he wouldn't want to show Grandma or the school principal. Pictures and comments could come back to haunt your child years later when he's applying to colleges or looking for a job. Whenever something is posted, it's forever, because other people can download it and save it.  

Above all, use your own judgment when determining is social networking is appropriate for your child. You know your kid best!.

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