Each week the Mentor Patch Moms Council answers a question on parenthood posed to them by readers or another member of council.
This week's question: How old do you think a child should be before they can have a Facebook or Twitter page? Are there any good tools for parents to monitor their kids' pages?
Mary Jo Stack:
I believe a child should not have a Facebook or Twitter account until at least the age of 14 or 15. The first thing to do is make sure your child friends you. Our schools do a decent job of teaching our kids about online etiquette, but it's important for parents to teach children, too.
Some good tools to use are monitoring your child yourself, checking websites like commonsensemedia.org, i-safe and requesting a software called Computer Cop from the Cuyahoga County Prosecutors office.
I will caution parents that you will never and I repeat never know all that your child does online. It is virtually impossible. You must try to be as vigilant as possible.
There are so many more sites than Facebook and Twitter and MySpace. There are hundreds of blogs and other social media sites.
Of course having your computer in a common area of the house helps, but our children have smart phones, iPods and friends' houses too.
This is such a tough issue because no matter how well they think they handle it, social media is changing the way kids interact with others, view themselves and learn to treat others too. I have teen boys and a young adult daughter so they're all Facebook and twitter users.
We talk a lot about what other kids say on those sites and what the ramifications are, and I think that helps.
My best tactic is to monitor what they're doing myself. I've asked them to delete posts if I felt they could be misinterpreted, and while it doesn't go over well - "You're censoring me!" - they always comply.
My second best tactic is that because my children follow each on those sites; they're less likely to say something that will get them ratted out to me by a sibling!
Social media can be a very wonderful and connecting tool if used in a responsible manner, but as with anything with kids, keep the dialogue going and let them know where you stand and what you find acceptable.
I think that the child should be at least 14 to 15 years old to first get a social media site.
But you, as a parent, need to monitor it. Get all passwords and logins for every single account that they have. Keep tabs on your children.
I am so glad that I didn’t have to deal with the Internet when my girls were growing up.
The kids today are so Internet saavy that I don’t know how a parent can possibly monitor everything their children are doing.
Talking, talking and more talking to your children about the dangers and then trusting your children to do the right thing seems to be all a parent can pray for
My kids are still young so this hasn't been an issue for us yet.
I would be more likely to let them start a bit younger, maybe at 12 or so, simply because we have lots of family in another state that my kids would love to be able to keep in touch with.
I would definitely monitor them and keep up with their passwords, though. If things were to get out of hand (pictures, bullying, etc.), I would have absolutely no problem with deleting the entire account.