I speak as an 18 year old who grew up with a healthy balance of Facebook, the mall, and other virtual and real life social situations. Sheltering children from the real world will never give them the experience they need to become well rounded adults. In fact, I’ve come to believe that sheltering children and not allowing them the RIGHT to make mistakes and learn from them is the quickest way to leave a child psychologically scarred for life. As soon as the child experiences something out of the ordinary, the effects can be drastic.

The best thing you can do is teach your children starting at an early age about the Internet and everything revolving around it. Restricting your children and not allowing them to learn from mistakes is simply wrong.And before anyone tries to invalidate my argument by saying that I’m only 18 and I couldn’t possibly understand because I don’t have children of my own, let me just say that I am the middle of 5 children, with two older brothers and two younger twin brothers. I have seen one parenting style utilized on my older brothers, and a very different parenting style utilized on my younger brothers.

I happened to be at the perfect age to adequately experience both. In seeing my older brothers graduate from high school and then from college, I have come to believe that demanding but nonrestrictive parenting breeds successful children. Never once did my father not allow my older brothers to do something simply because he didn’t want them to get into trouble. He ALWAYS allowed them to experience a plethora of different things, and several times they got themselves into trouble. But they learned from those mistakes.

After my parents’ divorce, my younger brothers and I lived with my mother, who, through a long string of boyfriends and husbands, wasn’t completely involved in our parenting. She was, however, intensely involved with things like the Internet and ensuring we didn’t go certain places or do certain things on the Internet. She wasn’t demanding about our schoolwork, but she was demanding about the people we made friends with and what we were allowed to do.

So, to bring an end to my long narrative, let me say this. My older brothers both graduated high school and college with honors, and are both quite successful, one as a lawyer and the other as a history professor. My younger brothers? Although they’re incredibly intelligent, they finished their freshman year of high school with straight C’s. I attribute this mostly to my mother’s parenting style, and only somewhat to the divorce.

Facebook lists 13 as the YOUNGEST possible age, and I agree some are ready at 13 but some are not. Many kids simply cannot comprehend that once you POST something, it is there (in cyber world) forever, you can’t take it back. Also that you have to watch what you say about school (so you don’t get in trouble) about personal info (predators), and then there is the whole world of cyber bullying.

It also bothers me that Facebook has the rule and so many parents HELP their kids break it. It just shows the kids that rules don’t need to be followed if you don’t like them. Another thing, once the kids ARE on Facebook I think they should be monitored closely until they are 17 or 18. If they can’t handle the fact that parents are a “friend” and can check in & control privacy settings, etc., then they don’t deserve the “privilege” of FB.

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I have children from 12 to 17. My 17 and 15 year old have Facebook and it is a challenge to limit their time on the thing. We have to watch them constantly because even if it looks like they are doing their homework, they have Facebook up in background.

So my 12 year old doesn’t have it yet but I’m sure he will eventually. It all comes down to the parents needing to start being PARENTS, setting rules, guide lines and being consistent, firm and discipline. Keep the computers out of the kids room! Set high standards for their grades, use the technology available to us all on regulating time on Facebook or even the internet as a whole.

Our computer is in the living room, the internet is only available to my kids from 4PM-9PM 7 days a week period! they have to share that time between the 3 of them and their mother and I, plus get their homework done and maintain a B average.

One of the roles of a parent is to prepare them to go out into the world, I have to let them go and they have to make mistakes and fail in order to learn, get back on their feet, deal with the consequences and go on. Just like when they were learning to walk, I never caught them from falling but I did protect them , they didn’t hit there head on the coffee table but I always let them bump onto the floor sometime to tears.

Same in FB, they have to learn the safe and proper way of using it and understand not everyone knows how. I’m trying to assist them in gaining that knowledge while I have some small measure of protection. In another my 17 year old will be 18 and in many ways I will be spectator to their life and hope whatever I taught them they remember.

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My youngest son does not yet have a Facebook page, but does have a computer with Internet acess. I have parental controls, as well as many things requiring passwords before things can be done. He also knows I check the history of what he does online . My older boy knows he cannot ask to be friends or accept a friend unless I approve it. Same with apps or games – only I can approve them. They know that breaking the rules means loss of privileges – period!

The biggest problem is search engines. Even with the proper blocks and settings, innapropriate things still pop up. He always tells us. We have taught him it is better to tell the truth, as lies get you in more trouble.

What happened to hanging out at the mall with friends? Or having weekend get togethers? Well, here are the answers to those questions and a few others. We live 120 miles from the nearest mall, 20+ miles from the town my kids go to school, and anywhere from 30-90 miles away from their sports teammates. And spending time with their cousins? They all live 500-1600 miles away. Not exactly what would be ideal “hanging out” conditions. Facebook has been our family’s way of keeping in touch with teammates, friends and family. My children know their cousins because they are “friends” on Facebook.