When should kids be on the internet?

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Because both Jack and Tucker are active online- I am often asked about kids and social media. People are curious, if not appalled that I allow my 13 yr old to have a Facebook, Google Plus and a killer You Tube channel.

Things have changed since we were young. (NO DUH). Because the internet was non-existent,  how we consumed news, researched for info and even wasted time watching sitcoms has changed. And the biggest change for the younger generation is how they communicate and connect with their peers. I have to force my kids to use the phone as it was intended. “Did you call grandma and thank her for your gift?”….”I texted her. So we’re cool”…No we are not. Because grandma doesn’t understand that kids do not place any less importance on the text communication. It still counts in their world. Social Media and the online experience is the portal in this new generations world. It is where they will work, play and engage in their lives.

Depriving kids of online experience would be the equivalent of our parents locking away the phone, the encyclopedias and the TV.

Doable? Yes.

But unrealistic, foolish and cruel- BIGGER YES.

Instead of shielding your children from the scary horrors of the internet by a complete ban…why not empower them early with training on what information is okay to give out and what is not. About how a bad guy can find you just by knowing your basketball team. Teach them about cyber bullies, and social media ethics and how to tell if a site is virus prone. (And for the love of god, teach them to never do the ‘reply all’ option while you are at it) Explain to them the permanence of the internet and the effects on reputation that can have.Give them the skills they will need to use sooner than you would like. Because whether you like it or not, Your children will eventually be on the internet.

(Unless of course you live on an Amish commune somewhere. Which in that case carry on.)

 

The assumption that children can’t handle the guardrails of the internet is ridiculous.

They can, and they do.

However here are a few simple guidelines:

  • Keep their computer in a more public place (family room is best) so you can keep an eye on what they are doing. be random. Check things whenever.
  • Know their passwords. Check randomly- but be respectful. Remember, this is their world now.
  • Do not allow them to friend anyone over 18 on Facebook. Even family members. Once they have visibility to an over 18 page- they can see ANYTHING people post there. Think about that.
  • Repeat the ‘never give out your phone number’ speech (and all the other stuff) a million times. And then one more time for good measure.

I have a young blogger friend, who is very talented and is only 9 years old. Do you think a 9 year old has nothing worthy to blog about? Think again. Read this- and you will see that even children as young as 9 add value to the internet experience, and are learning more about themselves in the process.

Take a deep breath. And loosen up parents.

Let your kids on the internet. It will be okay. Everything is going to be fine.

In fact- Everything is going to be great.

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