Family Relationships

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tweens and Social Media

Now that Facebook has finally gone public and lawsuits have been launched about the process, will the media frenzy about it subside? Attention is already being paid to other social media sites – including those aimed at kids, tweens and teens. With summer beginning and school out in the next couple of weeks, soon your kids will be having more time on their hands. Are you concerned about how they may be spending it?

Parents try to keep an eye on how and where their children are on the Internet, but the kids seem to be one step – or click – ahead in their search for freedom. And they're beginning younger and younger. While most don't have their own mobile phones until they're teens, 15% of children under 11 now have them. Although the age limit on Facebook is 13, many tweens have their own pages there. Kids are using Viddy, a video-sharing app, on their pages and they've learned to use sites such as Instagram, a photo-sharing app, to text each other.

As a parent, you want to protect your children from online predators, bullies, inappropriate advertising or their own naïve sharing of personal information. At the same time you recognize that the Internet is a part of their social and academic experience and you want them to learn how to use it responsibly. Now there are educators attempting to do just that. Playground is being developed by the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California to teach kids about Internet responsibility and privacy in addition to how to create content.

We've blogged here before about on-line safety and supervision – you can check out some of our tips for talking with your kids about the Internet. Of course you'll want to do your own homework before you decide which websites you'll allow your kids to use, if any. The American Academy of Pediatrics gives some suggestions for talking with them about time limits, your expectations for their behavior and rules they need to follow.   

If you want to get a jump on the process, here's a look at some of the virtual sites where your tweens may say they want to hang out this summer:

On the social media site KidzVuz, kids are encouraged to make and share their own videos -reviewing books and movies as well as food and clothes. They can't conduct private messaging and there is careful monitoring of comments to keep them in the protective guidelines.

Everloop is a social media site just for tweens where they can design their own pages, join groups that interest them, chat and play games. There are safety controls built in and bullying or bad language is not allowed by the monitors.

Tween girls who are interested in fashion may spend time on FashionPlayte. They can design and then order these clothes for themselves or their dolls on the site.  

Disney owned, established-site Club Penguin has activities and games for younger children to play as well as the opportunity to connect and chat with each other. With its embedded safety controls, it doesn't allow them to share personal information or treat each other with disrespect.

Now that you have some more ideas about what's happening on-line for your tweens, you can get back to planning how to get them away from the computer and outdoors this summer.

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