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Ready For Social Media?

April 13, 2014, 10:05 PM by Matt Holsen

Ready For Social Media?
SIOUX FALLS, SD -

It seems like everybody has a Facebook account these days. But when it comes to kids, how old should they be before they start friending people on the social network? Facebook allows users as young as 13 but does that mean 13-year-olds are really ready?

Facebook has become a part of many people's everyday lives. It's a great way to stay in touch with friends and family. That's why Michelle Flanagan got her son Shiloh started with an account.

"I'd change his little pictures to football pictures and we'd put football stuff on there for the family to see; aunts and uncles and cousins. All of his little stuff he would do. It was mostly me," Michelle said.

When Shiloh, who's now 14, does participate, his activity is monitored by his mom to make sure nothing inappropriate is taking place.

But not every mother pays as close attention and sometimes cyber-bullying can creep in. Dr. Edward Mailloux at Sanford Health is a strong supporter of keeping kids off social media sites like Facebook and Twitter until they've matured.

"You know girls, probably 13-14 is ok because they're already going through puberty or almost done at that point whereas boys are usually just starting," Mailloux said.

Mailloux says 13-14 year old boys are pretty immature and there's nothing you can do about it. That's why he thinks they should wait longer to create a social life on the web.

"It's just not necessary at all. All they're going to do is get in trouble because when they type into the computer, they type things they would never say to the other child's face. It's very detached and that's where all this bullying comes in. At that age, they don't need a social media account. They need to go out and play and learn socially what's appropriate and inappropriate," Mailloux said.

While Facebook only allows people ages 13 and up to join, a lot of younger users are faking birthdays to get an account as early as nine. Mailloux says if parents put their kids out there, they need to be on top of the situation.

"They need to have complete access to all their accounts. They need to be able to look at it whenever they want and they do need to look at it, like every day," Mailloux said.

With the number of 13-17 year olds on Facebook declining over the last three years, parents might be getting the message or the network just may be becoming less relevant.

Matt: When you first started, what did you think about it?
Shiloh: It was cool.
Matt: And now what do you think about it?
Shiloh: Boring.

"I don't even remember my password," Shiloh said.

Today, Shiloh, a football fan, sticks to YouTube when he's surfing the web. Regardless of what site he's on, you can bet mom will be keeping an eye out to make sure he's being exposed to appropriate things.

"Nowadays, 2014, you got to do a Google search on your kids and figure out what they're doing. You got to cyber-stalk your children," Michelle said.

While Facebook only allows users 13 and up, Twitter has no age limit although it says it's not intended for anyone under 13.

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