Monday, February 2, 2015

Kids on Social Media: What to Do When They Ask About It

Your baby is growing up.

When we have kids, we pretty much raise them one age group at a time: as babies, toddlers, pre-teens, etc. Every decision we make contributes to the adults that they become.

Social networking is everywhere. If your kid has ever been outside, he knows about social media. He may not call it that, but he knows about Facebook. He knows about Twitter. He knows about YouTube. What he doesn’t know is the complications of a technologically driven, social-media-engaged society.

And so it comes. A day childhood innocence dies: “Mom, can I get a Facebook account?”

Here are some things you can do to ease your child into social media awareness before he takes the plunge.

Join Your Kid

Having a social media account is a pretty big responsibility, even for adults. You have to watch what you say, be careful about voicing opinions, and adhere to the adage, “Less is more.” Your child needs to know that.

Facebook is the number-one social network in the world. Consider these facts:


  • TOS "Terms of Service" require that users are 13 years old or older to create an account
  • It has 1.35 billion monthly users
  • Millennials (ages 15-34) make up 66 percent of Facebook users
  • 87 percent of 2014 high school graduates use Facebook on a daily basis
  • The average number of “friends” that teens have on Facebook is 300
  • 70 percent of Facebook teens are “friends” with their parents


Let’s stop for a moment: if you are not a Facebook user or are an infrequent one, do some research into the lingo, privacy rules, etc. so that you know what you’re up against when your kid asks about social media. The best way to learn something is to do it, so you might consider opening a separate account when your kid does. You could do it together; this way, you both can explore privacy settings, site rules, etc., and talk about them.

Parents with their own Facebook accounts can do this, as well. Open your child's account with her, and then show her your own. It’s a perfect way to go over all of the little details about Facebook that kids need to know, like where you post and what to say when they do.

Explain the Concept of Identity

Social media is a relative mystery to those of us who grew up talking on the phone instead of texting on it, therefore showing our children how to be safe in a social media environment is a learning process for us also.

Cyber crime (identity theft) is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the world, and children’s IDs are taking the hardest hit. In 2013, an identity scan of more than 26,000 children was conducted by AllClearID.com; here are some of the results:


  • 26 percent of victims were six to 10 years old
  • 11 percent of children had someone using their SSN
  • Identity theft was 35 percent higher in children than in adults in the same population
  • In 2013, the percentage of children five years and younger having their IDs stolen was 15 percent


Deceased children’s IDs are becoming increasingly stolen, as well. One man in California was caught after he had stolen the ID of a four-year-old; the child had died in 1984.

The largest case of identity fraud committed was from committed against a Florida girl who discovered the theft when she was 19. The thief had stolen her SSN and racked up mortgages, credit cards, vehicles and more. The cost was $1.5 million!

Take Safety Precautions

When a child shares information on a social media site, that information is up for grabs; emphasize taking safety precautions. Show him how to set his privacy settings to the very bare minimum of public exposure and make sure he understands them. Set them, instruct him not to change them, and the consequences of what could happen if he does.

There are security sites that protect your child's identity so you don't have to worry. Companies like Lifelock, for example, not only monitor your identity for changes, but also scan for threats, and restore your name in case of a data breach.

AllClearID provides a (free) service called ChildScan, which you can have done at any time that can tell if your child’s ID has been compromised.

Your child is growing up, and that’s a good thing. Take this opportunity to educate each other. Show him the world of social media by gently explaining possible dangers, then let him show you the exciting part of social media.