Let’s say that you are a parent of a 13 year old. Congrats on making it this far. You’re 2/3 of the way to getting them off to college, or wherever they are going.
Many of the important lessons have already been learned – look both ways before crossing the street, maintain a healthy diet, get some exercise, be nice to others. Oh, and be very careful when talking to strangers.
I’m sure your child spends some time online – maybe a lot. If you haven’t already done so, it’s time to consider some guidelines for who your child interacts with on the social media, not just what she does there. The age requirement for signing up for Facebook and Instagram is 13. Twitter has no age requirement. In practice, there are no real age limits if a child really wants to get on Facebook or Instagram; the age limitation is almost impossible for the networks to enforce. And while you’re at it, don’t forget the online gaming networks. They have a very active chat community and almost nobody uses their real identity, so the possibility of encountering an impostor is real.
If the idea of a middle-aged person walking up to your 13 year old in a park and starting a personal conversation has you a little uneasy, consider what happens on the internet. Even if you are checking your kid’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram activity with a keen eye to whether what they are saying or posting is age-appropriate, you need to be vigilant in evaluating who they are interacting with.
Your daughter telling a classmate that she is going to a movie at 3:00 in Princeton can have far different ramifications depending on who she’s telling, and things on the internet aren’t always as they appear.
It’s good idea to have a very serious talk with your teen about understanding that there may be imposters with ulterior motives on the internet, and given that uncertainty, that it’s important to set rules as to which “friend requests” one will accept. Unfortunately, scaring kids into being overly wary of predators online might be a necessary evil.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for keeping teens safe online.