I thought I’d better stem off the wave of questions sure to come about the other social media sites and find out the minimum age for them as well and what the recommendations are for kids using social media. Sure enough, all the social media apps and websites have a minimum age requirement of 13 years old–Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and various others. Also, between 13-17 years old is supposed to be with parent’s permission.
Why does it matter if my child isn’t 13 yet? Is it just about the companies not wanting to break the law regarding collecting information about children online? Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act That’s likely the primary reason for their policies, but there’s some other compelling reasons that it’s a good idea to have kids wait until they are a little older and more mature to be a part of social media culture.
1. Kids younger than teens haven’t finished their cognitive development yet. It’s at around age 12 that they begin to develop abstract reasoning skills and can begin thinking more logically. They get better at seeing another person’s point of view, understanding consequences for their actions, and can empathize more fully with others feelings. They have a better understanding of the world around them and what’s appropriate to share and are more aware of the potential dangers online. Kids aren’t fully capable of reasoning as an adult until about age 15 and brain development continues until late adolescence or early adulthood (for boys). childdevelopmentinfo.com
2. Even seemingly harmless apps like Instagram have social networking. Before I looked into it, I thought Instagram was just about taking and sharing photos with friends. However, kids can post status updates and share personal information like any other social network. They can follow and be followed by hundreds of people they don’t know. The default setting shares photos with anyone, so unless you change this setting, your profile and photos are public. There is Geo-location available that can tell other users where your photo was taken. Yoursphere.com reports, “While there are tools for reporting/blocking users and inappropriate content, know that people will, and do upload nude photos. In fact, the editorial team found a multitude of bestiality photos in less than one minute when searching for friends. It’s a sad fact, and another commonsense reason that you shouldn’t allow your children to use Instagram.”