So everyone is calling Farrah Abraham a bad mom again. The latest furor comes over her daughter Sophia's Snapchat action. Because the little girl is only 7, a hell of a lot of parents think the Teen Mom OG star is being a pushy, neglectful mother and exposing Sophia to no end of social media dangers.
Well, that's a matter for Abraham and what she thinks is appropriate for her daughter. But it does make us think about the bigger issue: How do we decide when it's right for our kids to use social media?
If you haven't reached that point with your kids yet, people, it may come sooner than you think. It starts with a cellphone ("Everybody else in my class has one!"), and then come all the extras. YouTube. Apps. Facebook. Instagram. Snapchat. They want it all.
The most popular social networking sites — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat — require account holders to be at least 13 years old. But it's easy enough for much younger kids to open accounts. In fact, a U.K. survey carried out to coincide with Safer Internet Day in February 2016 found that three-quarters of kids between the ages of 10 and 12 have social media accounts despite being below the age limit.
It's not easy to keep saying no to a child who is desperate to get onto social media, particularly if some of their friends are on it. And if you do give in and say yes to Snapchat, you'll have a tough time making a case against Facebook, Instagram, etc.
Whether your kid is 7, 9, 11 or 13, as soon as you give them permission to use social media, you have to take full responsibility for keeping them safe. The risks are numerous. Cyberbullying. Watching inappropriate content. Drama with friends. Oversharing. Being approached by people who aren't friends and who may not have their best interests at heart. But each of these pitfalls can be overcome if you talk to your child about how to use social media responsibly and safely, and take steps yourself to eliminate dangers. The most important thing is to be involved. Make it a condition of their social media use that you know their password and can check their activity at any time. Make sure the privacy settings are as watertight as they can be. Talk to your child about what is and isn't appropriate to share online.
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