The Day I Let My Kid Have a Facebook Account

The Day I Let My Kid Have a FacebookFacebook, to be honest, is something I ruefully enjoy. In fact, about a year or two ago, I cancelled Facebook and only came back after several months when I felt it was “safe.” Clustering just my friends and family together, it eventually amassed to a few hundred people that, even though I knew them, they didn’t really know me. Frustrating as it was, I eventually whittled away at 300+ people to just a little over 60. Sure, the numbers grow little by little, but the numbers are kept down to family, close friends, and people I write with.

That’s me, though; I’m an adult (that could be up for debate, really) and I can decide who I add, what kind of content I look at, and just where it is being shared throughout Facebook, and, well, the Internet. As an adult, I’m responsible for what I upload to Facebook, be it status messages, pictures of my goofy face, or even when I share other people’s goofy faces. That’s all on me, you know?

About 11 years ago, I created a smaller version of myself. One could consider it cloning except she came out far superior and vastly more intelligent and I dub her my “Monkey.” With big, heavenly brown eyes, an infectious laugh, and a thirst for all things dealing with technology, my Monkey seemed to be quick to want her own Facebook. You can imagine my surprise when I realized this, but then took a look around at everyone she knows and how each and every single one of them have a Facebook account.

I remember that it was a Tuesday.

The conversation leading up to it was one of mild irritation — and mostly on my part — as she perched at the kitchen table and glanced over my open laptop, idly scrolling about the bits of nonsense.

Can I have one?” she asked, never lifting her eyes from the pictures I had posted of her that my privacy settings had kept mostly everyone away from.

And this is when I had to decide just how closely I could monitor my child’s experience without taking away the enjoyment she sought in it. Sure, she’s 11 and really, what does an 11-year-old need with Facebook, but it was all quite innocent. Her church group has an open Facebook presence, as does her family who shares quotes, pictures, cute stories, and everything — there for all to see. I had to ask myself if I thought my child was responsible enough to handle an open forum like that and just how comfortable I was that my child’s face would be on the Internet at all.

Then, well, I looked at my own Facebook page and realized I had been exploiting her cute little Monkeyface all over my private space. So why shouldn’t she get to, as well?

Upon setting up the account, we went over some rules and regulations to having a Facebook account and just what safeguards would be in place for her and, recently, I found the notes I jotted down for both of us when we were discussing it; I thought I would share them.

Rules for Monkey and Her Facebook Account

  • All settings will be private. This means that only friends and family members will be able to view her profile. (A parent can set these features up for their child to assure that they can’t accidentally go in and undo the deeds.) This is to safeguard others from looking her name up on the Internet and trying to add her, based on the information given, and exposed.
  • Absolutely no personal information shall ever be shared in a status update. This means phone numbers, addresses, or even private, personal experiences that others might not understand and take out of context. Sure, it was hard to use the potty one time, but I doubt everyone on her Friends list needs to be aware of it or how we fixed it, right? We also don’t need a bunch of her school chums giving us a call on the old telephone to check in on that potty situation, right? Exactly.
  • Friend requests will always be OKed by an adult — preferably a parent and/or grandparent. We know who is best for her to be speaking with and if it’s someone who she doesn’t know and neither do I, chances are that they have no business on her Facebook.
  • No spamming! This rule was added after the horrific “CatSpam 2011” incident, where we have had to make certain issues very clear. When she posts something to her status update — it goes out to everyone’s news feed. Posting repeatedly will spam updates on top of other people and it gets rather frustrating. So, when she sees a cute kitty website and wants to show them off to the world, she should refrain, choose one or two, and only post those.
  • Apps and games will be approved, as well! Sometimes, games and applications on Facebook aren’t meant for children or even younger viewers at all, so it’s up to the parent to safeguard her from those things. Games in which the player documents someone’s suicide drop off of a tower or where she takes pictures of her face and makes it look dead? Not really the most appropriate for a child. She must talk to her parent before a new app or game is to be utilized. She should remember the spam rule, however, and choose requests carefully.
  • Pictures must be approved before uploading. She’s a kid and, as such, she’s not really aware of the world around her and what might be considered inappropriate to some folks. While she might think nobody will think twice about her in her pajamas on Facebook, some people might think it “scandalous.” She must always run pictures by her parent!
  • Language, little one! Just because she may see other people posting language that isn’t intended for her doesn’t mean that she has the right due to the open world of the Internet. She is to be held to the same guidelines, language-wise, as she would be in front of her grandparents. She must keep this in mind.

Facebook is a great place for children to keep up with their family, their sports teams, church groups, and so on, but it’s just like most activities and it’s best done when very, very highly supervised. As it stands, my child has an adult check on her Facebook page nearly nightly and, if it’s not me, it’s her grandmother (Nonnie represent!) and I think that helps keep an eye out for anything Monkey might not see.

As an adult who was brought up in the age of the Internet, I know that I never wanted to be kept away from something that was growing so massively important, but I needed to be educated about it. If your children are of the age that they want to take part in the same social media circus that they see you’re a part of, let them know the boundaries and the reasons they may or may not want to, as well. Educate them on the boundaries that are put up to keep them safe, but never keep them away just because; that’s a one-way-ticket to rebellion that will have you finding an uneducated little monster with a secret Facebook page filled with curse words and scary pictures. After all, that might be what they think Facebook is for, you know?

What it all comes down to is this: I had to take the strong and attentive parenting style that I hold in my everyday life and apply it to the Internet, as well.

Do you let your children use Facebook? What boundaries do you have set up and if you haven’t allowed your children to use it, what age do you think you might? What about other social media sites like Twitter, Reddit, etc.?

Article Written by

Mouthy with a broad vocabulary and a large imagination, I come in from a rather lengthy (7+ years) stay in video game journalism. While tech, gamer and geek culture has always been my strength, I tend to be right at home with whatever topic is thrown my way. I'm a mother, a multi-tasker and a maverick. ♥

  • http://twitter.com/samversionone Samuel H.

    Great article Candice and awesome tips too!

    • http://www.facebook.com/thisisnotcandice Candice Cassandra

      Thanks, Sam! I know you get it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1292299949 Nino Brunori

    I don’t want to come off like a jerk but honestly I see no purpose in Face Book whatsoever.

    Yes, too each his own but I seriously don’t care to share my life with anyone. I know the problems with the internet every time I type my name in and it returns all kinds of personal information that I gave no one permission to make public. I’m not a celebrity and I don’t have a public persona yet my life is public now.

    After logging in one day I found my kids on Face Book when they never had my permission to do so. They add them selves so trustworthy with ALL setting at default.
    Not only that, Innocently adding personal information then adding apps that grab and share that information with anyone trying to make a buck.

    When it boils down to nuts and bolts this is not Star Trek where science and common respect for your fellow man prevail and everyone in Star Fleet are professionals. This is the United States where everyone has a hand in your pocket, where every store front has a tip jar trying to guilt you into believing that you will get better service if you add an extra dollar. No, Face Book is all about making money and will grab as much information about you to sell you the most garbage.

    I remember just clicking on the tab that said engaged too and all of a sudden nothing but ads popped up about wedding rings and dresses. It was then I turned off most everything, clammed up and use Firefox with ad blocker.

    As I mentioned, to each his own but there is absolutely no use for Face book as much as Diamonds are nothing but rocks and Gold is nothing but Metal. Useless unless you place value onto it.

    • ScruffySquirrel

      I don’t read to the end of articles about things I have no use for. I wonder why you read this one at all.

      Very good post, Candice. We all want to be attentive and involved family members, but don’t always know how. You’ve given us the blueprint as it pertains to Facebook.

      Thank you.

      • http://www.facebook.com/thisisnotcandice Candice Cassandra

        Thanks so much, Daniel! I definitely hoped it helped a few people out there.

    • http://www.facebook.com/thisisnotcandice Candice Cassandra

      Well, friend — why read an article about something just to comment and leave an essay about that thing you dislike? You know? I appreciate your input!

  • http://twitter.com/KarlNU Karl Newark

    I wish more parents would take care of the information their children share on Facebook like you do, some children seem out of control, and I can hardly say its their fault, it’s unfortunate more parents don’t realise just how destructive social networking and Facebook in particular can be.

    • http://www.facebook.com/thisisnotcandice Candice Cassandra

      I agree, Karl and honestly, if you’re watching who your child adds — I think it can be a very good, open experience for them.

      • http://twitter.com/KarlNU Karl Newark

        Absolutely, I know a while ago Zuck said that he wanted Facebook to be open to a younger audience. while this didn’t seem to go down well with the general public, I thought it was a good idea, children seem happy to fake their age online anyway, if a younger child could put in their real age, their experience could be modified for safety.

  • http://twitter.com/TCCook Chris Cook

    Good, teach an 11 year old that breaking the rules (13 year old is the requirement, right?) in order to join a site that is mostly narcissistic minutia is a great way to parent. Sets precedents for the rules she’ll break soon. Rules like drinking underage, texting while driving, don’t use drugs. It’s okay though, I am sure you’re best buddies. Kids have plenty of buddies, what they really need are parents (2), but what do I know?

    • http://www.facebook.com/wvpspdude Jared Moats

      Actually, Facebook has set up special accounts for children under 13.

    • http://www.facebook.com/thisisnotcandice Candice Cassandra

      Hey, Chris — Not sure why all the negativity but if you noticed, I *set* rules there for my child. There were no rules being broken. I’m a parent and I’m a very good parent at that — I didn’t post this in order for someone to come attack my methods. It was to offer an experience to those whose children do use Facebook. Thank you!

    • http://robertglenfogarty.com/ Robert Glen Fogarty

      While it’s true that it’s generally not advised for children under the age of 13 to be given Facebook accounts, there’s nothing technically illegal about it. And with the level of parental supervision that Candice is enforcing (as detailed above), her daughter is actually learning something about interacting with others online in a more respectful and polite manner than that afforded by some of the so-called grown-ups we seem to encounter every now and again.

  • Blair Warner

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I have found after 3 years now, that my kids are bored with Facebook, and just get on occasionally now. My 14 year old gets on the most. They really do prefer texting and now, the big craze, Instagram and Facetime. Facebook is too slow for kids who want to interact now, not post something and come back hours or days later to see comments. I could go on an on. Thanks for the post.

    • http://www.facebook.com/thisisnotcandice Candice Cassandra

      Well, you’re lucky! Like most of these internet fads, Facebook can grow old for some kids and that’s always a blessing. I know that by giving my child the option to use it, she’s not nearly as addicted as some kids/adults can be. She’s on it maybe for twenty minutes a day at the most and I think it’s because I didn’t make it some alluring thing that I wouldn’t let her touch. You know?

  • http://www.facebook.com/chong78 Anibal Nelson Cintron

    I’m in the same situation right now where I really don’t feel comfortable with them having a facebook and it’s mainly because of the things other people post that they do not censor properly. Yes friends and family included.

    • http://www.facebook.com/thisisnotcandice Candice Cassandra

      Oh, well, see, I’m very particular about who my child adds — even friends and family alike — and if I think they’ll see something they can’t handle or shouldn’t see, I don’t let them stay on my kid’s page.

  • Cristi

    I think its good you’re trying to let your child use something she constantly hears about/sees instead of letting it be something she could not have, which would only make it more desirable.
    Unfortunately I don’t think you can do it due to the very nature of facebook. You’ve said that you check everybody she adds, but you can control who their friends have in their friends list. Think about this scenario: you have a friend that often comes over so your daughter might want to add her as a friend and you would be ok with it. But if that friend has children, or nieces that are teenagers. Sure, they might be good kids but for sure they have as their friends a lot of people from their highschool and given the fact that most of the teenagers (at least those I know) don’t really pay attention to their facebook privacy settings your daughter might end up on an inappropriate profile, picture, comment. You might only check your friends and family updates/photos but a lot of kids/teenagers like surfing from profile to profile and you just can’t control that. The only solution I can think of is checking the browsers history (which I’m sure you already do), but the work arround is a right click -> new incognito tab. Given the fact that you have a pre-teen girl your concern might be more about who sees her profile rather than who’s profile she sees, but if you were having a pre-teen boy you would be more concerned if he has access to content involving sex or sex-related (a lot of teenage girls/university students posting pictures with them in sexy dresses, or barely clothed or with alcohol and cigarettes / dope) or violence. And you just can’t control that because you see only what your child interacts with (comments, likes etc), not what he sees, and if he/she finds out how to use incognito there is no way for you to know.

    I think the olny way would be the old fashioned “move the pc/laptop to the kitchen/living” so there’s an adult in the room for supervision.

  • http://www.thatjayc.com/blog Jay Caetano

    Awesome post! It’s ironic that I read this post today because I was trying an app on the iPhone the other day called KEEK, and all the videos that I saw, was what seemed to be these underage girls (most of them under 16 probably) posing in there in bikinis, dirty dancing and other content that parents are probably unaware of. All I could think of was all the pervs online watching this. Parents need to be more aware of what the children are during on the internet.

  • ClarkNovak

    Right on. Very well said and very responsible.