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Ask a Therapist: When should I allow my child to get a social media account?

Posted at 2:42 PM, Jan 31, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-31 16:43:04-05

Ask a Therapist: When should I allow my child to get a social media account?

The first question a parent must ask him or herself when thinking about allowing their child to open a social media account is: Are they mature enough to handle the risks and challenges that come with social media?

There are several risks and challenges that come with being on social media. This list is not exhaustive but will hopefully help you to start thinking about some of the most common risks:

One, we cannot always control what others are going to post. We cannot guarantee to protect our children from seeing things that may be disturbing or inappropriate.

Another challenge is that what happens on the internet is forever (or so it seems). Even if removed from their social media page, anything put out on the internet can be copied, saved and replicated and may have a permanent presence on the web. This can follow children for the rest of their lives.

Isolation from the three-dimensional world can rear its ugly head when children are too immersed in the virtual world that is social media. It is easier in some ways to engage with others online. The problem is this does not give the brain all it needs in terms of social engagement, which is vital to your child`s brain development and their ability to develop skills necessary to navigate the real world and life successfully.

Cyberbullying is also a huge concern. Bullying can happen anywhere but in the age of technology, it is easier for bullies to hide behind a screen and anonymous or fake profiles to harass others. This can be extremely detrimental to the child who is not yet prepared to deal with such difficult stressors.

Online predators can also pose a significant risk to children. Predators are very good at making profiles that draw children in and can pose a very real physical and emotional danger to children of all ages.

In addition to asking yourself if your child is mature enough to handle the above challenges, I recommend asking yourself (and your co-parent) the following questions:

Does my child have the ability to have an ongoing conversation about the risks of social media?

Am I prepared to and do I have the time to regularly monitor their social media to keep them as safe as I can?

Do I have good communication and safety within my relationship with my child that will allow for my child to come to me with any concerns they may come up with social media use?

Is my child able to socially engage with the world in person in a meaningful way?

Can my child follow our house rules and are they open to feedback from me as a parent?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, it may be best to hold off until you are able to say yes.

Remember that social media is a very new thing in our world. Yes, it has a lot of benefits but we got along fine without it and holding off a little longer for your child to be more prepared to handle these challenges will set them up for success in the real world as well as in the virtual world.

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