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by Ronald A. Rowe | December 22nd, 2010 | Elementary, Helpful Hints

At what age is Facebook OK? On the surface, it seems like the ideal platform for a kid to test the waters of social networking. The personal information is available to only those pre-approved “Friends.” Language and content can be easily screened by limiting those who have access to your child’s account.

Except it doesn’t work that way. Like the old AIDS commercial, your child isn’t just friends with everyone on their friend list. They are also exposed to everyone on their friends’ friend lists through cross-postings on “the wall.”  Even limiting it to just friends and family may not be enough. It can be hard to explain why your child cannot be friends with sweet teenage cousin Susie, who posts comments that would make a sailor blush.

The Internet is a big scary wasteland filled with material wildly inappropriate for young eyes and predators waiting to entice your child into all manner of awful things.  Working with as many teenagers as I have over the years, I have seen families absolutely torn apart by improper and unsupervised use of the Internet.

The Internet is also the greatest informational resource in the history of the world.  There is too much good there to take an Amish stance and ignore the technology that has transformed the world.  But as wise parents and good stewards of the gift of children, we cannot turn a blind eye to the rampant misuse of the Internet, either.

The only answer that I know is — supervise.  Make time to sit with your child.  Buy an “Internet Cop” software to track their usage.  It is OK to let your child know that they have no reasonable expectation of privacy on the computer and that you WILL be checking everything they do.  That very well may lead to conflict in the short term, but it will also lead to a happier home in the long run.

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