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What to Do When Your Pre-Teen Wants A Facebook Account

What to Do When Your Pre-Teen Wants A Facebook Account

Although Facebook requires users to be at least 13 years of age, millions of pre-teens are using fake birthdays to create accounts, often with the help of their parents. According to a study by Pew Research Center, 46% of online 12 year-olds use social network sites like Facebook.

Many parents find this pre-teen trend alarming. Once on Facebook, children can be targeted by predators, exposed to ads meant for adults, and to potentially inappropriate content posted by others. As mom Natasha C. shares, “The problem with Facebook is if you are ‘friends’ with somebody, you have access to whatever their friends post and it may not always be appropriate for young kids.” Telling kids it’s fine to fudge your age can also send a bad message about other serious age-restricted behaviors, such as drinking alcohol.

So why are parents breaking the rules?

Many Circle of Moms members argue that they’d rather sign up their child for Facebook and teach them safe Internet practices under close supervision rather than forbid the site and risk their child opening an account behind their back. Leanne M. explains: “If we never give them the chance to learn, how will they learn? They will go behind our backs. I'd rather she have something like a FB acct with my knowledge and a mutual understanding that she is NOT to screw that privilege up!”

Additionally, many parents argue that Facebook is a positive communication tool for keeping in touch with out-of-town relatives and friends, and that games like Farmville are fun and harmless.

If you are going to allow your pre-teen on social networking sites like Facebook, consider the following safety tips suggested by savvy Circle of Moms members:

1. Honestly evaluate your child’s maturity. Before taking the plunge, seriously consider whether your child is ready to handle the responsibility of a Facebook account. Is your daughter trustworthy?" asks Heather B. "Will she come to you if someone asks her to add them to her friends list, if she doesn't know them? Is she open and honest in other areas of her life, because if she isn't then there is a chance she won't be about Facebook.”

2. Explain Internet risks. As Christina P. advises, “Explain the dangers of the Internet, for instance people she doesn't know, spam, cyber bullying and such.” Go over information that shouldn't be posted, including her location and when the family is taking a vacation.

3. Set privacy settings extremely high. Adjust all the settings for maximum privacy,” Debbie C. recommends. Many parents set their pre-teen's profile to private, so that the child can search for and "friend" people, but not the reverse.

4. Don't post key identifying info. Prevent identity theft by keeping important basic information off the profile. As Susie H. suggests: “Take off her date of birth and her age to protect her from identity fraud.” Others recommend using a fake name.  

5. Don’t post a personal photo as the profile image. Prevent strangers from knowing a child is on the account by using a drawing, illustration or landscape photograph as the profile image. As Gayle S. shared of her son: "He chose to put a drawing up as his ID pic, and I thought that was a great idea, and a bit of added security."

6. Monitor contacts. Only allow “friend-ing” of family and close friends, and review the child's friend list often. Many Circle of Moms members also carefully review the profiles of their children's friends to ensure they are positive influences

7. Know the password. Many parents gave their pre-teens a Facebook account under the condition that the parent know the password and be able to log in to monitor the account. Felicia G. shares: "Make sure you have her login information. I have my daughter's and I can check it anytime I want."

Some parents even keep the password a secret from the child, so they will only log in when the adult is present. Explain the importance of keeping passwords secret, even from best friends.

8. Set up email notifications. If you set up the account with one of your own email addresses, you can monitor the friend requests your child receives and the photos she's tagged in.

9. Set consequences. "Make sure you set basic ground rules and hold up your end if she breaks any of them," advises Cynthia S., and Rebecca S. agrees: “Trust is a big issue and she knows if she messes up I will deactivate it.”

Image Source: Hoyasmeg via Flickr/Creative Commons

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Susanne14823862 Susanne14823862 2 years
So happy to find a board/group of mom's that agree with me!!!! I was unfriended by several mom's on my own Facebook because I simply found out about the age limit and posted that I was NOT going to "report" the "kids" I see on Facebook, but I was NOT going to friend them and was actually BLOCKING them so as NOT to be tempted to report them! It's not MY job to parent YOUR child, so..... I will simply continue to make and enforce rules with my own 3 girls and simply tell them "I am not THEIR parent, I am YOUR'S!" If parents are easily and willingly changing their child's birthdate, well..... that is simply breaking the rules and that is NOT something I would willingly teach our girls :-(
GarnetCox GarnetCox 4 years
My kids are 10-boy and very nearly 9-girl and my rule for them is that they are not allowed on ANY website that will not allow them to pick their actual birth year during registration, this of course, includes facebook. My son gets a little peeved about it now and then because "mom, my friends all have one, and I don't" To which my answer is "I'm not your friend's mom, I'm your mom." At this he pretty much says "okay" and goes to some silly draw a line for a stick figure to sled on type of site and forgets all about asking for a facebook. Now, my daughter, on the other hand...she's a different story entirely. She spent a week with her grandparents out of town and her grandma allowed her to be on her grandma's facebook. I was online at the time and she entered a "chat" with me and told me she was not my mother in law but my daughter. I immediately called my mother in law and informed her that my daughter is NOT allowed on facebook no matter who's account it is and that was the end of that. Unfortunately for me, my daughter had already been bitten by the farmville and instant chat bugs, but she knows my rule and just keeps saying things like "ugh, why can't I be 13 yet?!" or "my friends are lucky, they get to have facebooks!" To which I again reply "Well, I'm not their mom, I'm your mom."
MarianHelmick MarianHelmick 4 years
I just came across this post and I have to add my comment. It would make it easier for all if facebook would add a sub-account for family members under 13. This sub account would be monitored by the parents. Having a facebook for your kids can open social opportunities for kids especially those who have social anxiety where it is difficult for them to get to know other peers face to face. I think it could be a fun experience with the right conditions. Facebook for me is a wonderful place to get to know my friends and share thoughts, all the firends I've connected with are respectful. I think this would a good way for kids to learn how to be respectful and social online. There could be videos made of kids intereacting respectfully and a "How to" guide. Such as how to be friends online. every kid wants friends, a how to guide would give good ideas on what to say to others. Everyone wants respect, how to show respect to others and you'll have the opportunity to have good friendships....that type of how to would be a good way for young ones to learn how to be social appropriately online. And it would be safe as a sub account on facebook. We just have see if facebook can make this concept and parents help by monitoring activity through their master account. What do you think of my idea and why not get together and send a letter to facebook about this idea?
SabeenaAhmed SabeenaAhmed 4 years
good read
StephHyne StephHyne 4 years
I recently posted on my blog about this and have a few things to say: 1. I find it really interesting that not many on here seem to know the reason for the "under 13 restriction". It's a law to protect children from sites that collect and possibly sell personal information and it also covers any site that allows, open, unmonitored chat. That's why sites like Wizard 101 can allow under 13 year old kids and sites like say FallenSword and Facebook can not. It's called "COPPA". Look it up in the Wiki. 2. Bullying has been around for 100 years. Blaming it on social media is irresponsible and dangerous. When I was a kid when someone was bullying someone they wrote it on a piece of paper passed through 10 other kids or they called their land line phone. Just because social media allows another avenue for it doesn't make it a new problem. Also? Sites like Facebook and MySpace that require you to use your true identity prevent "hidden bullying" meaning the kids know fully well who is bullying them and can take it through the proper channels. 3. Facebook has automatic protection in place for all pages owned by ALL minors under the age of 18. It restricts ads and keeps their pages from being searchable. I applaud them for this because I suspect 13-16 year old girls are in as much if not MORE danger than most pre-teens using Facebook. 4. 3 words - Key Logger Software. Look it up, download a free version and use it. It will log every keystroke made on your computer. While it might be tedious going through all of your keystrokes it's irresponsible for any parent to not have some kind of safeguard in place whether their child is 10 or 18. I find the parents who ban their children from all computers to be a little out of touch. I don't mean this disrespectfully, but my son has technology classes at school. They're a requirement as is keyboarding in Jr. High. Maybe I am mis-understanding and they are not allowing their young kids to use the computer which OK. But to not allow any child under 18 to use a computer is kind of ridiculous in this day and age and frankly setting them up to seriously fail in life. Computers are EVERYWHERE. Our government is working on going completely paperless to create jobs. So you've kept your children from learning basic keyboarding skills and basic computer skills and when they graduate from high school they are going to do what? That's if they can graduate without taking some kind of computer class as a requirement. Also? They're going to use them unless you lock them in their rooms until they're 30. They're going to have a friend who has one and then you've sent your kid in to the fox's den because they have absolutely no basic understanding of how to protect themselves online. I'm not saying give your kids free reign online, and I'm not saying it's right or wrong to allow or not allow your child on Facebook, of age or not. I am saying no matter what you do, you have a responsibility to protect them and in this age of technology how can you do that if you don't sit down with them and teach them how to be safe online? There's a reason for those Phineas and Ferb PSA's on The Disney Channel. They didn't just think they were cute. Teach your kids, take responsibility for what they do, and help them to be good stewards of technology no matter what the arena. Because if you don't I guarantee you, they'll learn it somewhere else and you'll regret it. Finally, while I have seen a bit of drama on Facebook amongst pre-teens, I have also seen serious drama on Facebook between both teenagers and adults. The WORLD is full of drama and bullying. If your kid is a bully online he's gonna be a bully at school, and if your kid was going to be bullied online he's going to be bullied at school. At least if you're Friends with him on Facebook you'll know about it when it happens instead of him coming home sporting a black eye and a nasty attitude he "doesn't want to talk about".
trishreid61288 trishreid61288 4 years
When I started my kids account I actualy thought the age limit was 18 so does that make me a really bad parent? My kids watched me play the games and wanted to play them as well. It had nothing to do with friends or communication so I started an account for them. They are not allowed on the computer unless I say it is ok so I felt no harm could really come from it. All privacy settings are at max and I have their log in details and they had to have me as a fb friend. I think the key is communication with your children, let them know what is expected and what will happen if they exceed those expectations. I have not had any issues and they have had accounts for a few yrs now.
NikkiHendry NikkiHendry 4 years
Sorry but i don't agree with the above. The age restriction is their for a reason, not only that but by creating fake profiles, lying about ages you are breaking FB's T&C's and can be band anyway. Kids should be enjoying being kids, playing out with friends. For those that want to keep in touch long distance that's what emailing & messaging is for. I would prefer my son to be out scraping his knees rather than sat in front of a console.
christinaferris christinaferris 4 years
All of you helicopter parents are setting your children up for failure.Allow them a little freedom now or they will rebel later.There is no problem at all with kids having facebook as long as you monitor it regularly.
Lauren14786833 Lauren14786833 4 years
My 12 yr old has a FB account my mom set her and my at the time underaged sister with one because they wanted to play the games. When she decided that she wanted her own we talked about it. She isn't allowed to post her picture and she only has school friends and family on her page. It has been helpful since she changed schools last year and she will be moving and leaving her friends this year. As a parent I just moniter whats going on. I would rather her have one than sneek behind my back because that can lead to alot worse than lying about her age for a website.
FONTELLACOLE FONTELLACOLE 4 years
I think this article is wonderful and on point, I have two daughters who are 11 and 121/2 and they are not allowed to have FB or Myspace. They both have kidsworld accounts that are of the same equivalence as the other sites, w/o the adults. It's no excuse why youngsters shod be in grownfolks business, although I can't raise other people kids for them, I would like to stress as I always do, if we raise our kids with half the structure our parents and grandparents did, the world would be a better place. Never mind them being upset, parent first and friend later!
NathalieHachey NathalieHachey 4 years
I think I'll stick to waiting til she is the age allowed by fb and supervise her then, my 11 year old cousin has an account and I don't find it right.
KateHarle KateHarle 4 years
I agree, wholeheartedly with the 13 year age limit! My kids will be allowed facebook acces from 13 onwards and not before. They know it is a privilege and they are looking forward to it, but with some trepidation as we have friends who allow their kids access already and are paying the bullying price!!!! Too much gets said on the internet and canbe easily misconstrued, i want my home to be a safe haven where the bullying is able to be stopped at school and if the bully is stupid enough to follow my kids home they will have me to deal with. Peer groups rule the kids a school for many hours of each day, why let them continue to when they come home?
ElisabethIswariMH ElisabethIswariMH 4 years
totally agree with debbie..even thought i had made a facebook account for my son when he was 10 as a peer's pressure as all of his friends have it too and as i dont want him to make it behind my back, and recently he found out by himself that he is not into it as he realizes the danger in it...so it was a good experienced for him...some children just need to experienced by themselves..of course with our guidance.
MaryLambert93193 MaryLambert93193 4 years
@ Debby Williams You said it better than I could have! I think there are rules for a reason and if you allow your child to break one, the next will come easier and easier. Are you going to allow your under age child to drink at home "to protect them"? Personally, in the techie world we live in, I think the younger set needs to experience some delayed gratification. Maybe growing up won't be such a shock to them.
KathyEverman KathyEverman 4 years
I couldn't agree more with Debby!!
DebbyWilliams DebbyWilliams 4 years
I absolutely 100% disagree with any justification of allowing a pre-teen to get a FB account. The bottom line is you are allowing them to lie. There is a 13 y/o age requirement and by allowing them to sign up before then you are allowing them to lie about their age. A lie is a lie. So then where's the line? If we don't teach our children to follow rules at 12 it will be much harder to enforce later. Your child will not DIE if they can't get on FB until 13 - they can communicate to their friends the old fashion way - it's called the phone. It's not about if your child is trustworthy or not, it's about setting an example about following rules. My now 14 y/o daughter had to wait until her 13 birthday which she grumbled about at first until I explained this to her. We signed her up on her birthday so it turned out to feel more like a special "rite of passage" along with becoming a teenager. I set rules ahead of time. She must "friend" me and I must know her password. I told her that I will periodically read her wall, not to "be in her business" but to let her know that her actions will be monitored and that FB is a privilege that can be revoked.
RachelDean78064 RachelDean78064 4 years
I teach at a middle school and many of the kids have Facebook accounts. There have been many cases of bullying via FB and kids spreading rumors. They are much more likely to say things via the computer than to someone's face and that is part of the problem. My son wishes he has a FB account (he's 9) but I want to shield him from that as long as possible. He might feel left out but at least he won't be exposed to all of that gossip and drama.
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