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How Old is Old Enough on the Internet?

How Old is Old Enough on the Internet?

If we talk bluntly here, I will admit that I am a Mom and a Stepmom. These are two different things, no matter which way you slice it. Of course you love the kids, biological and not. But there are so many other factors in stepparenting that change the dynamic. Namely, the presence of (in my case) three other parents involved.

One area that we have found differing opinions is online freedom handed down to my stepson, who is now 12 years old. If I were to be perfectly honest, I’d confess that – at about his age – I was all over the internet, into things my parents knew nothing about. I was on message boards, taking part in RPG forums, and I was quite the pioneer of the IM.

I feel like I sound like an old fart here, but the internet was a different place back then.

It’s true – it’s their native language now.

Now, there is danger at every click, it seems like. Chris Hansen has inspired fear in every parent by exposing some of the sick minds out there, the ones who prey on children. I wish I could say that this danger is limited to the 22″ screen – oh, those things don’t happen here! – but they do. I know children who have been solicited. I know these things.

So when it was announced that my stepson would be given a Facebook account at the age of 9, I decided this was a sword I would fall on. See, I do the internets. I know about internet security, about internet privacy, and how there’s really neither of both to be found. I also knew that a Facebook account was set-up, and although it was sworn to be “safe”, I could see it. Without being signed in. And I put my foot down.

Not only that, but I could tell you where he was that afternoon. See, even if a parent approves all of the child’s “friends”, there are children out there who are already heavily involved in sites like Foursquare. And they tag their friends with them when they sign in. So not only could I swiftly tell you where my stepson was, I also knew he had about four friends hanging out with him at that very moment.

It’s a lovely bit of knowledge when you’re a parent, but man, nothing you want the predators to know.

Eventually, the issue fell in on itself, and at the age of 12 – with the age of Facebook consent being 13, mind you – we agreed that perhaps an account would be okay. We all have passwords to it, and we all log in regularly to make sure nothing shady or below board is happening. We are all friends with him online. For the most part, he stays self-regulated, engaging in only funny cat memes or the occasional YouTube video of someone not quite landing a skateboard stunt.

For that, we feel blessed. Because it is a jungle out there.

How do you handle your pre-teen’s online presence? What rules do you have that work for your family?


View Comments (18)
  • I dread this day. My oldest is only 2.5 but he is already the iPad master…you don’t have to read to click icons and play games! How much is too much? And the thought of 9-10 year old being solicited…*shudder*

  • I am glad you did this article. Definitely puts my mind at ease. I have a 10 year old daughter that desperately wants a Facebook page and honestly is about the only one in her circle of friends that doesn’t have one.

  • Great Article! This is a hard decision… So not looking forward to the pre-teen years. My oldest is almost 5….

  • My son is 9 and i am unconfortable with him having a facebook acct. Alot of his friends have accounts.

  • Our oldest is just under the age. He plays his FB games on my account. The problem is that his underage friends are my friends because of the games. I have considered changing mine and letting him have my old one (with a lot of deletions, of course). I wish parents wouldn’t let their way underage kids have one. It puts the rest of us in a bad position. I don’t like all the checking in and vacation posts either. I have checked-in before. I usually talk about a trip afterwards. But that’s just me. Enjoyed the post. 😀

  • I struggle with this as well since we are such a techie family. I also have friends who have forbidden their children from having facebook only to discover they made pages that their parents didn’t know about. I think the secret is to be constantly involved!!! Talk, check out their pages, see who their friends are and above all don’t let your kids hide out in their rooms doing who knows what!!

  • For my children, I only allow them to use the internet at home when it is a necessity. Plus, it is with supervision. I also don’t allow them to use internet on their cell phones. I collect their phones before bedtime and I do a little check up to make sure. I know that it is difficult to control because I know for a fact that they can still access the internet and all the things that I don’t like about it when they are outside the house but at least, I can control it when they are at home.

  • Good thoughts on a hard subject! We are really strict when it comes to any kind of media. My 2 oldest kids do actually have a FB account but only for playing a couple games and they aren’t allowed any computer time at all without a parent right there with them. They only have a handful of friends on there…..all of them being family or church people. And honestly they have since lost interest in the games and don’t even get on anymore at the moment. I’m sure that will change once they get older but for now we are ok I think.

  • Great article!! Its amazing how my 3 1/2 yr old boys know how to use an ipod and android like a pro!! But I will limit them to disney or nick jr games..

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