When to Let Your Kids Use Social Media

I find today's parents, grandparents, and caring adult role models have very specific questions about raising this generation of kids who have never known life without the Internet, phones, and social media.

One of the questions I hear most frequently from parents is, "What age should I let my kids have access to all this stuff?" It comes in many forms:

  • "How young is too young for my daughter to have her own phone?"
  • "I didn't get my son a phone—I just got him an iPad. Is that dangerous?"
  • "My eleven-year-old daughter wants an Instagram account. Should I let her?"

Let me give you the quick answer: thirteen years old.

The answer is simple when it comes to social media because most of these platforms require kids to be thirteen to even sign up. If your child tries to sign up for Snapchat, the app will ask for their birth date. If they are under thirteen, it will redirect them to a version called SnapKidz.

Instagram? Thirteen years old.

Facebook? Thirteen years old.

These guidelines exist because of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which prevents sites from collecting select information from kids under thirteen. Parents who have allowed their kids to sign up for these apps before thirteen either missed this fact or allowed them to lie about their age.

This should make it much simpler for you when little Emily asks, "Mom, can I have Snapchat?"

"Sorry, Emily, I would let you, but the law doesn't allow me."

I realize saying no to our kids can be difficult when every other parent out there is giving their kids devices before they cut their first tooth. Our kids are sure to complain, "But Brianna has her own iPad!" or "Taylor has had Snapchat forever!"

This is where parents need to stop and ask themselves, "What is my role?" If you want to be the friend-parent or yes-man who gives in to their kid's every whim. . .then by all means, give 'em a phone. But if you see your role as the coach, or Sherpa, who will guide them along the road of adolescence successfully to adulthood, then I recommend you wait until they're twelve or thirteen. And don't let them use social media until the age COPPA allows, which is currently thirteen for most apps.

Are your kids already on social media and mobile devices? Pick up your copy of The Teen's Guide to Social Media. . .and Mobile Devices by Jonathan McKee and equip them to navigate the digital world safely.

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