At what age do we allow facebooking?

My daughter feels a little left out. She is 12 and many of her friends have Facebook accounts and we have told her that she cannot have one until she is 16. Our theory is that she should learn some real social skills before turning to the online drama. It seems strange to me, but I get requests from kids fairly young to be my friend. I refuse and will not ‘Friend’ anyone under 18 (I think for obvious reasons). However, I’m curious. Are we being restrictive parents? At what age should kids be allowed to Facebook?

I look to ya’ll for my parenting skillz.

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  1. I guess now I can tell my daughter that she isn’t, in fact, the only 12 year-old girl in the whole wide world without a facebook account.

  2. Steve Evans says:

    Personally, I think 12 is fine. More important are the types of overall supervision and advice you give about using the Internet as a whole.

  3. well the limit is 13 to sign up on their own. Personally we let them on under conditions and under a username we know and they are not allowed to change.

  4. the only bernie mac episode i ever watched was when his niece, around the same age as your daughter, complained that she was the only girl her age who didn’t get to wear makeup. “yeah, and you’ll be the only one who doesn’t get pregnant, too!”

    when i was twelve, i was already in high school. i would have snuck facebook, had the internet existed then in its current form, because my parents absolutely would have forbidden it. what about saying she can have it once she’s in high school?or 14? or with parental access and with you guys setting the initial securities? twelve seems young, but 16 seems old-ish.

    :::taking notes for when my four daughters are “of age”:::

  5. Since your daughter is the only one not already immersed in Facebook, exactly whom is she supposed to be developing “real social skills” for? C’mon SteveP–get with the robot revolution and allow your daughter to become the cyborg you always hoped she’d grow up to be.

  6. Perhaps my family is a bit skewed. We have 4 children. We have 11 iPods (at least), 5 cell phones (everyone but my 6 year-old), and 7 computers of various types.

    I have kids with Facebook accounts as young as 11. They are going to do it anyway. We teach them safe internet protocols. I know who their friends are. We are very open about everything. Even my 6-year-old knows how to start the computer, login, find a website for Webkins, login with her name and password, and go to town.

    I went to dinner today with my 9-year-old son. He was telling me how he and his friend found the most expensive car they could find – searching around the internet and telling me all the options, etc.

    They are going to do it. Forcing someone to wait until they are 16 only means that they are going to do it in secret anyway.

  7. Unfortunately it is true that it may hurt her “real” social life if she doesn’t have a Facebook account.

    I’m glad I don’t have to worry about those “is my 12 year old daughter old enough for this” decisions for a decade.

    By the way. I don’t have a Facebook account, not because I think there i anything wrong with it, only because I prefer blogging which already takes up more time than it should.

  8. You turn down kids in your ward who ask to be your friend? How do you sleep at night?

  9. My kids 10 and 8 have a facebook page. They are private, no one can search for them. We only allow cousins, grandparents, mom and dad, brother and aunts and uncles to friend them (and a few very close friends). We don’t even let extended family friend them, though they’ve tried (my cousins). They don’t know them and there is no point. We live far away from family so they enjoy sending notes and jokes to my mom, etc.
    They rarely use it, but when they do they are pretty silly back and forth with aunts and uncles and “kidnap”.

  10. oh, and ditto #2. We have one computer and it’s in the family room/kitchen. My kids have sufficient internet rules. They sure learned to surf young. They aren’t allowed to use any sites you have to log into in general–and I won’t let them search craigslist unless I’m with them, for starters.

  11. I’m married, but don’t have kids yet. In my opinion, things like Facebook will probably become the next cellphone – indispensible in the near future. My wife and I have talked about this, and she thinks that even at the wee age of six is a good time to start talking about internet etiquette, protocol, and safety. After all, even today, you can’t really navigate anywhere in the average American life without bumping into some kind of internet access – we hope to train our kids so that it’s no less instinctual to have good etiquette and safety rules than them knowing how to answer the telephone or to not open the door for strangers.

  12. They are going to do it. Forcing someone to wait until they are 16 only means that they are going to do it in secret anyway.

    The story of my life. Except in place of facebook insert “arms trafficking.”

  13. I can stand next to an Amish person and understand and respect the way they choose to engage with the world. I don’t have to agree or disagree and I certainly don’t think it’s necessarily right OR wrong.

    I tend to lean towards engaging the world as I think that’s the only way to fully go out unto all the world. As far as my children go, my job is to prepare them for these challenges in their own lives. Teaching them principles, wisdom from my experiences, and giving them the tools to handle what is coming. The thing is, just as my parents couldn’t with me, I can’t predict what is coming for my children’s future.

  14. My mom found that Facebook was a good way to discretely keep tabs on my youngest brother. It’s very possible to use it as a parenting tool…
    And certainly Facebook is more protected than Myspace or many other popular places on the internet.

  15. Glenn Smith says:

    “…teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves… ” – this quote doesn’t quite fit for all parental situations. I agree with those who closely monitor computer access in the homes. In such situations, mmiles #9 has a good plan. To broaden the discussion, I opened an account out of curiosity, and quickly closed it after another site (MyLife, formerly went phishing on Facebook to enhance my profile!! And when my sister posted my life secrets on her page, and my kids read all about my indiscretions – aaaargh!!! As an employer, I find it a big time waster.. We considered blocking it, but there are so many sites, including official church sites, with links, it ‘s like trying to dam the Amazon with a single stone.

  16. heh, I think it’s funny that you are asking a “plugged in” group of well worn commentators and frequenters to multiple blogs what they think about letting children get on facebook. Truly this group, including me, will have a very skewed opinion on the matter (as has been evidenced by the comments so far). Not a single one of the commentators has asked what is the purpose of a 12 year old getting on facebook. To counter this massive skew, I think it would be wise to also ask this question of non-BCC and bloggernacle frequenting folks. Their opinion might be very helpful.

  17. aloysiusmiller says:

    Hey I am on permanent moderation but if you are leaving out youth you are missing a big facebook opportunity. When youth ask you to be their friend they are saying that they will keep their facebook involvement adult.If you tire of their posts you can hie them but they won’t know it and you can always look at their wall.

    I do agree that younger than 16 doesn’t need a facebook account.

  18. We let our kids at 14, since that’s when they start getting involved in stake dances & youth conferences, etc, and they want to network with other teens beyond the local ward and keep up acquaintances with kids they don’t see as often.

  19. From the terms page of Facebook:
    You will not use Facebook if you are under 13.

    So Facebook says you have to be at least 13.

  20. #6 MikeS, the reasoning is exactly when the issue of giving condoms to teens is brought up.

  21. My wife is going to a girls night out tonight that was organized on Facebook, in a few years it wouldn’t seem that strange for my daughter and her friends to organize a night of movies or playing the Wii over Facebook. I’d rather have her on a site I understand and can keep track of then hanging out on a site I’ve never heard of without me knowing.

    Kids don’t talk to each other in person anymore, I’ve watched nieces texting each other while they sit ten feet in the same room.

  22. My oldest is 9 and he has shown no desire to get a facebook account, as none of his peers have one either. He likes to go on and play online games like runescape. We limit his time playing.

    As far as facebook, I think i’ll wait until the kids ask, or until I feel they are mature enough. We’ve already had some discussion about the dangers of the internt. My son knows that there are bad things out there. I do have a facebook account, and I am friends with most of the kids in my ward. This does mean, however, that I have to watch my P’s and Q’s about what I say.

  23. This is helpful! Part of my reluctance is that it seems to be used as a tool for bullying, but then that’s true of life. But maybe, (and this may be part of the real problem) I don’t want my daughter to friend me. I have a lot of fun on facebook and if I know my young daughter (or her friends (by the by, should I add my daughter’s friends? That seems creepy?)) is watching my status updates I might feel constrained. I mean, sometimes I want to escape from kid life.

  24. I made my kids wait until they reached Facebook’s policy age of 13. (Wait, I let one kid join a month early because she was at an out-of-state camp that had a local Facebook group she wanted to join.) I’m already doing the usual things to monitor my children’s computer use, such as having the computers in a common room in the house. The best way to limit the drama and emotional investment in online life is to limit the time spent at the screen.

    Facebook is much easier for a parent to oversee and advise than MySpace.

    One advantage of having your child on Facebook, is that she/he will be able to see any pictures tagged to his or her name. That’s actually relevant to the cyberbullying question.

    I always add any child ward members who friend me, no matter how young, though I won’t let my same-age kids open accounts. I’d also add any child my kids know. I figured I would be a positive connection for any young kid stumbling around Facebook, and if the child doesn’t have a parent online or friended, I’m a resource to the child’s parents.

    My status updates got constrained by the variety of my Facebook friends long ago. Ah well.

  25. Coffinberry says:

    Ha. My status updates get the same self-censorship for the same reasons. (My ‘friends’ span the entire political, social, and religious spectrum!).

    I got on Facebook myself to stay in touch with my older children (ha. Children. I mean newly-adult offspring). The whole thing I largely use as a means of connecting with extended family, so I befriend nieces, nephews, and cousin’s kids (and block their status updates as necessary. Not all are LDS, and some things I just don’t want to know). I also friend my kids’ friends, and it’s nice to sometimes be an alternative trusted adult in a crisis.

    As for my younger kids (15 & 11), neither is interested in Facebook yet. I think 13 is a good guideline, with the caveat that you have to befriend your parent, and parent has to be able to see who-all has been befriended.

  26. Following up, we friended our kids and they friended us – it was part of the agreement about family Facebook rules. And I always respond yes if a youth in the ward friends me, but I don’t send friend requests to youth, even if I know them well. Those that want me to see their pages will friend me. I agree with Johnna that it’s a kind of “village raising the child” idea, and that it’s good to have intergenerational contact & mentors within a ward, and good for youth who become YAs and move away to have various connections to adults in their home ward.

  27. If the terms of service say 13, then I’d go with 13. I’d require that anyone younger than 16, however, have at least one parent as a “friend.” We’ve actually found it’s a good way to keep track of what the kids are up to.

  28. Asking your daughter’s friends to add you = creepy
    Adding your daughter’s friends who ask you = not creepy

    Anyway, 14 (or starting high school) seems plenty old enough to be on Facebook, assuming you’ve taught your child to be cautious (and you make her add you so you can check up on her). Teenagers being teenagers, she’ll probably pay a lot less attention to your Facebook than you will to hers.

  29. StillConfused says:

    I say whatever age they express interest. If necessary, a quick reminder in the beginning: “there are creepy people in the world so be careful what you post on line” (Assuming she doesn’t already know that. Else, be prepared for the “well duh mom/dad”). Also, if you have a solid communication relationship already with your child, then the facebook check ups may be unecessary. Though if you have funny kids like mine, some of the posts may be quite humorous

  30. Here’s how to take charge of the Facebook situation.
    (Caution: Strong language alert! You were warned!)

  31. #19: A few comments

    I don’t know that a kid having a Facebook account in today’s age is anything like having sex and condoms.

    But, I would hope that I am open enough with my kids that if they were to decide to have sex, I could talk to them about making sure they were protected with condoms. Obviously, my first choice is that they wait until they are married, but a very high percentage of LDS kids are going to have sex despite our wishes, so I’d rather they at least use a condom, to be honest. Putting our heads in the sand about it isn’t going to help.

  32. I think the rule that they have good face-to-face social skills before jumping into online social networking is a good one. My teenage sibling (who, granted, has mild autism) has had some trouble with this lately. Her Facebook account is still open, but her time on the internet each day is limited, my parents know her Facebook password, and my other siblings and I keep tabs on her and let my parents know if we see something that concerns us.

    And I second the suggestion of others that parents should teach internet etiquette and rules early. So much of our lives involves being online that it’s irresponsible not to.

  33. I predict that in four years the kids will have moved on and Facebook will be a distant memory.

  34. I am astounded by the number of kids I see on Facebook (in the ward, my younger sisters’ friends, etc) whose parents do not monitor their activities there. I do agree that it’s the sort of thing that your kids are going to do anyway even if you tell them not to. My teen sister-in-law has created more profiles than I can count because her parents kept making her close them down and she’d just go ahead and make a new one. Much better IMO to simply monitor them closely.

    Love that segment MikeInWeHo! :D FB is a great stalking tool for ex-girlfriends and parents alike.

  35. I think as a way of staying in touch it’s interesting on a shallow level. I don’t consider facebook a blog, it’s chat, my blog is where I can really get my whole paragraph out. I also keep my pics on my blog because the general public doesn’t need to see them, and doesn’t care. I see people get hurt on here because someone replies too much or not enough and I roll my eyes, it’s not exactly for the thin skinned, because you’re putting yourself right out there, you know?
    As for age the original query, it’s all about maturity (and whether or not Dad is trying to get more teammates on Speed Racer). We let our 12 year old get on (ok we made her get on LOL) but she does not use her real name.

  36. I guess that being said I’m probably not “mature” enough for Facebook!

  37. One more thing, I agree with “L” but you can leave out “internet”. We should all be teaching our children manners and kindness and etiquette early on. THey don’t have time in school. If they are nice in real life it’s not so hard to believe the transition to internet, facebook, cell phones, workplace would be to be nice as well. And the rule is no friends unless I know the parents. So I got numbers, ya know?

  38. some of y’all need to explore facebook’s privacy settings. you can create different lists that can allow each friend to see a different version of your page. close friends can see everything, touchy family members are blocked from your status updates, kids’ friends can see your name and family photos, and the ward nutjob can only see your name and profile picture. look into it!

  39. I prefer to start them early, with lots of parental oversight and advice. I think it’s better to teach them early how to tell who’s nice, how to watch out for and block creepy people, etc. They’re definitely going to be out there and vulnerable eventually. I think they need to be guided and supervised when they’re young so they can be confident and safe when they’re older.

  40. Steve,

    We decided to let Izzy and Zach have Facebook accounts not so much because “everyone is doing it,” but because I think it contributes to their development as social beings in today’s high-tech society. We watch their interactions with their peers very closely, and we have specifically made sure we are friends with their friends, so that we can monitor the communications. We’ve also made it crystal clear that having a Facebook account is not a right–it’s a privilege that can be as easily taken away as it was granted. For my part, which I hope you understand is NO judgment of the way you and Lori choose to do it in your house, I’m not so interested in restricting my kids from what the rest of the world is doing so much as helping them negotiate that space in safe, moral, appropriate ways.

  41. And to think, there was a time when Facebook was only for college students.

    Funny how things change.

  42. I can’t stress the importance of parental oversight with childrens’ and teens’ computer usage. Put your computers in an open place, put on a good filter, and check your computer history daily. I speak widely about Internet safety. There are so many Internet predators out there that parents need to teach their children how to safely navigate the Internet, including “crash and tell,” which means that if they access a pornography site–and they will, often accidentally–they need to turn off the computer and tell you immediately.

  43. Heather, (#39) I think that’s great. I’m still open to rethinking this. I’m seeing some good arguments for a more open view. I still having trouble negotiating Facebook as an outlet of creativity and opinion with my adult friends and a communication device for my children. I’m rethinking this in light of the comments here.

    Peter LCC (#32), Facebook is 4ever.

    Tatiana (#38) you and others have made an important point about teaching kids responsibility early while you can watch.

  44. I was telling my daughter some of the reasons ya’ll thought I should rethink the age rule and she said I forgot the most important reason: So she can take the quizzes.

  45. Kevin Barney says:

    At the very least I would lower the age to 14. But personally I think 12 should be fine as long as you have some basic rules in place. You and your wife should be among her friends so you can see what’s going on. She can have relatives and real life friends whom you know. As time goes on you can loosen the reins a little and allow classmates whom you haven’t actually met yet to be friends. She can never, ever give anyone else her password. Stuff like that.

  46. OH! She wants to play, too! All her friends are taking those silly little “What Tolkien Hobbit are you?” and she wants to be a part of that. I can’t blame her.

    Honestly, I grew up in a very restrictive home–even as a little primary girl I wasn’t allowed to wear any clothing that wouldn’t be appropriate if I were wearing certain LDS undergarments. I wasn’t allowed to go to the parties, watch the shows, read the books, see the movies, etc. that my friends were listening to. And you know what? I felt like the biggest loser and outcast ever to walk the earth. Everyone else had things to talk about, and I couldn’t join them because I never had their experiences. Of course, Emily is a much more content and peaceful child than I ever was, so I’m not suggesting that she is feeling equally like an outsider. But too much restriction actually pulls her outside the “social” engagements that you said you wanted her to develop before she gets online. Scott B (#5) above makes the same observation.

    Your worry about her seeing your Facebook presence is something I wrestled with, too, before letting Zach and Izzy join. Suddenly I couldn’t say anything I wanted, or make posts about my kids, without them knowing. But you know what? Though I’m a little more conscious about what I post (and I probably should be), I really haven’t made any unusual accommodations and my kids feel more connected to me, because they can read my thoughts and ideas and worries, than they did before. Just my two cents on that concern.

  47. My 5 adult kids are my friends on Facebook and the poor things lead nearly as boring lives as mine. I like the 14 year old idea. Going to dances and youth conferences opens up friendship possibilities that can be nurtured by a social networking site. If you live somewhere outside of UT that can be very important in keeping you active.

  48. If you ever move from her friends, the choice will disappear. She will NEED to communicate with her friends from your former area. At least, that’s the reason my pre-teen daughter gave me – and I agreed.

    My 7-year-old showed my wife how to use all the options on my wife’s new cell phone. It’s a different world, and, with proper supervision, our kids need to be able to negotiate it.

    One of my favorite quotes is:

    “We must educate our children for their future, not for our past.”

  49. “We must educate our children for their future, not for our past.”

    It think I’ll get that on a cross-stitch and hang it on our wall. I like it.

  50. My 12 year old daughter is begging for a facebook account. Mascara too. So far we’ve decided 13 is when you get to play teenage games.

    The older kids organize quite a few of their activities on facebook. I accept all of their friend’s friend requests. I tend to be friends with their parents already and the parents are friends with my kids. It really gives me a nice overview of what’s going on.

  51. DH and I have been on facebook for 5+ years. He is YSA Bishop. I teach Institute. The Activities Committee runs a page too. If you are a YSA in our area you can join our group. We give dinner invitations on facebook. The exec sec asks people to call him (privately, of course.) It’s like a phone call, only easier to do several at once. Facebook is not the future for the youth, it is a current, normal way to communicate. I would let a 12 year old on with the caveat that Mom and Dad get to be friends AND to have the password, with the understanding that you can see whatever they can see. Tell them you are only comfortable if you can lurk. If you see things that make you cringe, talk to your child. They might be cringing too. They might have an explanation, or they might want one. I see facebook as one more vehicle to start conversations with kids.

  52. I don’t friend anyone under 18 unless I ask their parent’s permission first. And I won’t ” fb chat” with anyone under 18 at all–I just don’t want anyone to get the wrong impression.

    As for keeping things personal, etc–you need to use the privacy features. You can have your daughter be able to see some stuff, your friends be able to see other stuff, etc.

    For example:
    If you add a person to a “friend group” and then set that group’s privacy standards, you can manage your whole friend list. It takes a but of time to set it up initially, but now every time I add someone all I have to do is choose which friend group to add them to (I have four levels, from “can see everything” to “can’t see status updates/my blog/my notes/my pics’).

    Those of you who friend your kids–make sure you are being privacy blocked from the important stuff.

  53. Thanks Melissa! That is helpful.

  54. Man, I feel like a dinosaur.

  55. #18: There is a federal law related to the fact that many online services do not allow participants under age thirteen. It is called the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (q.v.).

  56. My 14yo dd has been on FB for a year. DH and I know her password and will change it if she doesn’t comply with some basic rules regarding homework and chores (dare I admit I once changed her status to “grounded”?). It’s been a good motivator for her. She has behaved herself very well, though there have been a couple of teaching moments. I’m also friends with many nieces/nephews and kids in the ward and stake. Rarely do I see posts from these kids that raise my eyebrows. I seldom post on the teens’ walls beyond “congratulations,” “happy birthday” or “thumbs up.”

  57. Well all, thank you for your advice. Under your tutelage we have lowered the age of my daughter’s entry into facebook to 13. My wife is going to friend her and her friends and I will keep my grownup crowd. Good discussion all. Thanks for the advice. It takes a village.