@YummyMummyClub has started a discussion this morning about kids and Facebook. Should your kids be on it?

The arguments lie with the rules of Facebook stating users must be at least 13, but in an era where kids can operate smartphones before they know how to tie their shoes, the push to get online is coming younger and younger.

My children are 3 and 1. They have blogs, twitter accounts, youtube channels and facebook pages. They dont know how to use them, I control the content and the connections, but I am building a network for them so that when the time comes it’s ready for them.

We hear many stories about child predators and the dangers of the online world. It’s easy to live in fear when the media constantly terrorizes us. Yes, the rules state that 13 is the minimum age for Facebook, but when you’re faced with highly networked children (who most likely already have cell phones that you gave them because you were afraid of them waiting for a bus alone after school) you have to ask yourself – What Would Lenore Skenazy Do?

Lenore writes a fabulous blog called Free Range Kids. She wants us to let go of the manufactured fear we face as parents when raising our kids. She wants us to let them go to the park alone. She wants us to let them walk home from school. She wants us to let them play. She wants us to let them be kids.

We need to loosen up.

Are there bad people online? Yes.

Are kids fully able to distinguish friend from foe in this tangled series of tubes? Not likely.

And there lies the best part of opening your kids to Facebook: a chance to teach them. By getting your kids online, you can show them the right way to do things. You can empower them with the filter to learn what’s good and what’s bad and how to create a positive online identity.

By getting them in the game earlier, they’ll have more experience in networking. They’ll learn the rules and, hopefully, it will be another place for you to engage your kids on their level. It’s kind of like the parent that lets their teen take a sip of wine at the family dinner table. By not making the behaviour outrageously taboo, you take away some of the allure of being deviant (something attractive to teens).

Just look at the campaigns of abstinence vs sex education. By simply saying “this is bad” and closing the door, you are sending your children into the world without the most vital tools they’ll need to survive: knowledge and information.

The world is not a scary place, when you know what you’re doing. It’s the naive that easily fall into traps when they’re not aware of their surroundings.

So let your kid have the account when they want it and just start with some ground rules until they understand what the social network is all about.

Rules for Facebook:
1. Parent and child MUST be friends.
2. Parent MUST know child’s account password.
3. Parent gets full editorial control over the child’s profile

We all get learner permits before a full driver’s license. This is the same thing.

Are your kids on Facebook?

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