Two different questions have been on my mind recently.
When should a student get Facebook?
I recall asking my sixth-grade nephew once if he had Facebook. “I don’t need it,” he responded.
That threw me off.
Students at my former school obtained a smartphone and/or an iPad by mid-elementary, and there’s certainly a different age requirement than 13 in China. I say this because a lot of elementary students already have WeChat or QQ (social media platforms with chats, posts, and so much more). I didn’t even stop to consider how one of my 6th graders recently asked to add me on Facebook. Reflecting on all of that had led me to wrongfully assume that every child I met as young as mid-elementary would desire to connect via social media. Low and behold, every child’s life and context are different. When a child actually wants to get Facebook more than likely varies on lots of factors, many of which we as outsiders to their lives may not know about. (For more on ways we may misunderstand teens and technology, please check out danah boyd’s It’s Complicated.)
I didn’t think of the fact that my nephew was under 13 years old when I asked him either. Thankfully I haven’t met, heard of, or needed to report anyone under 13 using Facebook. This brought me to the following question…
When should a student be allowed to get Facebook?
Little did I know about the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), a law passed in 1998 to protect children under 13 from having their personal information available. Thus, Facebook’s age requirement is 13. Most other apps/sites have the same condition while some range lower or higher.
Common Sense Media has much to say about protection and guidelines for social media, along with what is going on at age 13 developmentally. Parents and teachers alike should take heed and stay informed. This will help when striving to understand what pre-teens are going through. It should be strongly suggested for the parent as well to be involved in the child’s life during this time since children lying about how old they are may put peers at risk. (Side note: This would be a great time for adults to also examine our social media habits and behaviors because, as I have discovered in parenting and teaching, I and other adults still have some maturing to do too. Children are NOT alone in this manner.)