Allison here, with AllClear ID. Rumor has it that Facebook will start allowing children under the age the 13 to join the social network. The reasoning behind this change is that children under 13 are already joining the site by lying about their age; the change would make it easier for these kids to join Facebook without lying. Although Facebook has made no specific plans or announcement about changing the policy, it has expressed interest in creating a safe haven for kids online.

Whether or not your kids are on Facebook, it’s important to talk to them about how to be safe online because it’s likely they will join the social networking site once they turn 13. It’s estimated that over 20 million kids under 13 are currently on Facebook, and parents need to be involved in what their children are doing on Facebook. Here’s how to talk to your kids about Facebook safety:

  1. Talk About What They are Doing Online – Facebook doesn’t allow anyone other than the account holder to access accounts, so parents can’t snoop into their kids’ profiles. As an alternative, get to know what they are doing online. Ask them who they are talking to, what they do on Facebook, and ask if they are giving away where they live and where they go to school. Parents could take this one step further by creating a profile for themselves and adding their kids to their network. You may not be able to see everything, but you can still be involved in what your kids are doing on Facebook.
  2. Guide Them Toward Proper Behavior – Think of Facebook as another way for your kids to engage and to interact with other people, and guide them on how to do so appropriately. Let your kids know that they shouldn’t be complaining about their teachers, coaches, family etc. online, and explain the possible consequences of doing so. Most parents would scold their kids for saying something negative about their coach in public; consider the online world as another public forum where comments like that can easily get out of hand.
  3. Encourage Them to Come to You – Facebook still has advertising and scammers out there, and a child is probably the most vulnerable of all. He or she could be easily lured to give away personal information to sign up for some prize more than an adult might be. Encourage your child to come to you with questions regarding decisions like this, giving you the chance to explain spam and data privacy to your child, without the consequences of identity theft or a broken computer.

It’s best not to stop them from using Facebook if they are already on the social networking site. Social media has become an integral part of socialization and communication, and it will only be a matter of time before your child is on Facebook. It’s better to be a part of this process and to help your kids make the right decisions, instead of ignoring it and making your kids learn it on their own.