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  • 3 Things Parents Should Do Before Letting Children Join Social Media

    What to do if your child asks if he can join social media apps?
    by Angela Baylon .
3 Things Parents Should Do Before Letting Children Join Social Media
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  • Whether we admit it or not, social media is becoming more and more part of our lives. This is especially true now that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many to go online. Case in point, children had to adapt quickly to online learning modes.

    This shift to digital and the use of social media have undoubtedly added another layer of complexity when it comes to parenting. As kids become more immersed in social media, it falls upon the parents' responsibility to prepare them and keep them safe online.

    What is the appropriate age for social media use?

    So, first things first, you might be wondering when is the most appropriate time to let kids join social media. Most common social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram require users to be 13 and above before they can sign up. However, the non-profit organization Common Sense Media recommends a higher age, 15 to 16.


    For Michael Rich, M.D., director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Boston Children's Hospital, aside from the age restriction rules, parents is the best gauge when to let their children use social media.

    "Some kids may be ready to handle social media under the legal age of 13, but most probably can't," Dr. Rich wrote for Parents.

    He adds, "You (parents) are the best judge of your child. Ask: Can she use it in ways that are healthy and respectful of others?"

    What to do before letting your kid join social media

    Once you have decided to let your child dip into the world of social media, here are some steps you should take first before hitting the sign-up button.

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    3 helpful tips to prepare kids for social media use

    1. Determine what social media sites are safe for kids

    Dr. Rich says it's best if you are familiar with the social media site before letting your child make an account.

    When choosing what sites you'll allow, ask yourself these questions:

    • How is content filtered on this site?
    • Can I tweak his account's privacy settings?
    • Does the app have parental control features?

    Christine Elgersma of Common Sense Media also suggests parents ask their kids why they want to be on social media. Their intent on how to use their online account is a good baseline when you set ground rules for social media use.

    In an article for CNN, Elgersma explains, "When teens are saying they want to use social media to stay connected to friends, that's a good sign. If their answer is more along the lines of trying to get famous or "showing off" in some way, it's more problematic -- and could lead to risky behavior in their search for online fame."

    2. Have an honest conversation with your child

    Setting up a social media account is a big step. It may feel like an ordinary thing nowadays, especially for adults, to be online, but it's a different issue altogether for kids.

    As parents, you must let your children be aware of the potential risks of having a social media account. Some of the basic topics you have to discuss with them are:

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    Kids must learn how to react when they encounter these risks. Teach your children about how to report posts or accounts they come across that are questionable.

    Privacy and oversharing must also be covered. Emphasize that online content is as good as permanent to teach them about being responsible and accountable for the things they post or the messages they send.

    3. Set ground rules

    There is a fine line between being protective and invading your child's privacy. This is why it pays to discuss with your child how you'll monitor his activities online. 

    Arrive at a common agreement that you'll still have access to his accounts and know his username and passwords but make sure to keep a healthy boundary so as not to force your child to be secretive.

    "To avoid this, it's important to frame your checks as a form of training wheels; you're doing it to support them, not call them out," Elgersma points out.

    Bonus pro tip: Continue educating yourself about social media. As the old adage goes, change is the only thing permanent in this world. Social media and various apps go over updates regularly. New features are launched, and new social media sites are being developed almost every day. The more you get familiar with these, the more you can prepare your child.

    Keeping your child out of social media is also still an option. But the sooner you accept that they will have access to the Internet at some point, the sooner you can equip them with the correct information and appropriate online etiquette.

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