Watching Over My 12-Year-Old’s Instagram Account

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It’s simple, Instagram is not for children under the age of 13 years-old, but some parents are allowing their children to create social media accounts prior to reaching this legal age requirement.

What message does this send to your child?

Are you children above the rules online?
Just because you believe the child is ready for this social media, you can over-ride the rules?

What is the lesson that will carry into your child’s future?

Rules, guidelines and boundaries are given to us for a reason. Whether we are adults or children, safety should always be a priority.

The Internet isn’t any different; it has rules and regulations for our own good. Sometimes known as code of conduct or terms of service (TOS), these guidelines are implemented to protect their users and age restrictions are put in place for a reason. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) was enacted to protect children under the age of 13. COPPA actually makes it illegal for kids to sign-up for Instagram and other social media sites that have age restrictions.

What parents need to keep in mind is this is not about Instagram not liking little kids; it is about what is in the best interest of their children. Maybe parents don’t understand what is truly lingering on these sites — it may not be for little ones’ eyes. Remember, even with the best privacy settings, there can be mishaps in cyberspace.

Monitoring our children online is part of parenting today. Prior generations didn’t have to worry about texting, tweeting, emailing, or other digital habits. We have decisions to make today that our parent’s never had:

• When should we give our child their first computer?
• When should we give our child their first tablet?
• When should we give our child their first cell phone? Smartphone?
• When should we allow our child on social media sites?

In many families the first few questions may come down to economics, which is reasonable, combined with the responsibility of your child.

However the last question is one that has been up for debate with some parents. According to a recent study, four out of ten children give a false age to be able to create accounts on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Some parents may believe their child is ready for Instagram, but the fact remains that Instagram is not ready for them.

Facebook recently announced they are working on a patent to allow kids under 13 to join. In doing this they are working to comply with the section of COPPA’s that prohibits children under 13 from using online services that collect data without explicit “verifiable parental consent”.

Even if Facebook is able to find a way to follow COPPA and allow younger kids online, offline parenting remains your best tool for your child’s online safety. Communication is key to digital decisions for social media choices.

Unfortunately, your child can still go behind your back and create a fake email account and attempt to join any social media site they want to. It’s your job to equip them with knowledge and empower them with tools to know better than to create a fake account or, if they do, enable them to make wise choices when confronted with uncomfortable situations.

It’s not about denying them access to Instagram, it’s about helping them to understand that we are not above the rules, and the rules are put in place for our protection. Instagram is not all about fun and funny photos. As many headlines have outlined over the years, there are disturbing things that can take place on Instagram such as porn, cyberbullying, predators and more.

Give your children other age appropriate, social media options and encourage them to share them with their peers. There are some excellent social networking sites for children under 13 years old. Visit Common Sense Media for Kids for a list to choose from.

When your child comes to you and says “All the other kids are on Instagram, why can’t I sign up for it?” be prepared to have a conversation about COPPA, following the rules of the Internet, and although you may trust your child, you know Instagram is not a place for them.

At the end of the day, it’s about the best interest of your child — and being under-aged on Instagram is not in their best interest.

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