What to Say When Your Under-Age Child Wants a Facebook

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Wi_praying_hands_ckb_1jpg_copy Meryl, a friend of mine, shared an interesting story with me the other day.  It was about her 11-year-old cousin, who, like many 11-year-olds, is starting to show interest in social networks, more specifically Facebook.

The good news was that Meryl knew about Yoursphere; she knew that it was perfect for kids just like her cousin.  The problem was the fact that her cousin had friends who were already using Facebook (like many children under 13 do), which makes it difficult to talk about any other alternative—even a safe one like Yoursphere.

Here’s what she told me:

Mary Kay – The other day I was talking to my aunt and telling her about Yoursphere for my cousins Willa and Wyatt. She was so excited because she said Willa (11-years-old) has been asking her to get on Facebook because one of her friends is on it. My aunt said “I don’t know what to tell her because I’m on Facebook all the time.” This response would generate the inevitable question from her daughter, “but you’re on Facebook, and my friends are on Facebook, why can’t I?” Honestly, not being a mom, I don’t even know the answer! But I’m sure you could offer advice on it.

Meryl – I would be happy to provide you with an answer.  I meet parents all the time who have the same question as you.  They use social networks to stay in touch with family members, friends, and for business reasons—and to be honest, Facebook is a great tool for adults to do just that.  But these same parents always get a response from their kids similar to the one your aunt experienced.

This is what I tell them:  There is a federal law in place, The Childrens Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).  This law is there for the protection of children online. It makes it against the law for any website operator that asks for personally identifiable information to allow a child under 13 to be a member of the website, unless the site engages in the following steps:

1.  Gets the parents verifiable consent (Yoursphere requests this from the parent of any member 12 and under).

2.  Provides the parent a place to view the content their child (under 13 years old) posts so that they can view it anytime they want and take it down if they need to. (We offer this with the Yoursphere Parent Dashboard)

3.  Doesn’t allow the child to post personally identifiable information (phone number, address, first/last name).  Yoursphere doesn’t. We don’t ask kids for their school,address, email, middle name, last name, or phone number. Facebook does, and they post it.

4.  Protects the privacy of its members – Yoursphere does.  We don’t collect, sell, or give away any personal information to third parties.  On Facebook, your child’s information is linked to every single application that they click on.  Their disclaimer says: “You agree to give anything in your profile to allow this application to work including photos, contact information, including your friends.”  (Parents usually prefer to keep their children’s personal information private, given the choice.)

This law doesn’t just apply to Facebook. It applies to any site , game or community that your child can access online.

So what can you do?

Be aware. Know the facts.

Know that COPPA is in place to help protect your children online.

Tell your children about this law, and discuss why your family follows the law.

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  • I have a 17 year old step daughter and even at that age her mother and I are very careful about her Facebook use. We are both friends with her on facebook so that we can see what she and her friends are posting. We have her password and she is not allowed block anyone from seeing anything. We don’t check it on a daily basis but often enough to know that we are watching.

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