Why My Kids Won’t Be Allowed to Use Social Media Until Age 13

by Blagica Bottigliero

A chat with Tracy encouraged to finish this post. I started the topic back in November.  Thanks for the push, Ms. Schmidt! 

image c/o Wikipedia 

image c/o Wikipedia 

As much as I’ve worked in and around the tech industry, there is one tech innovation where I won’t budge - forbidding my kids to use social media networks until they are 13. This includes any online gaming sites or networks that are geared towards children and are safe, monitored and managed. I know plenty of experts in the world of community managing children’s games – they are fantastic and intelligent people.

But I won’t change my mind.

I have a four year old and soon-to-be one year old. They are both exposed to various forms of displays, tablets and videos in more ways than I can imagine.  Going against my anti first generation anything, my husband and I purchased Google TV. I love it. Yes, the UI is horrible, but at the time, we needed a flat screen. We also wanted an interactive experience.

Today, my daughter expects all TV to be paused. She is able to navigate her way to her favorite Netflix Kipper videos or DVR’d episodes of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. Then my little one became savvy enough to know that our Amazon connection enables her to see larger chunks of Daniel via Amazon Prime’s On Demand service.

This technical prowess is extending to my baby boy.  Before dinnertime, we have a hysterical rendition of Family Dance Party.  My kids know that the YouTube app is on the TV and I can call up any video I want.  Once YouTube is over, I typically switch over to Pandora and we put some light music on in the background for dinner.

Then there is the sweet little request from my daughter to call up her games on my Nexus tablet.  I have a parental lock on the apps, but it didn’t take long for my toddler to understand that there were certain games that I needed to purchase for her.  Today, she uses a reading app and sits with her brother and listens to stories being read to her by the magical lady.

To balance things out, my husband and I are adamant that there is more time spent reading, writing, drawing and literally destroying our house with non tech things.  Our daughter loves her Chicago Park District Pre-K class, but loves her weekly Kids Science Labs class more. She comes home with the most inventive experiments. Today she came home with a DIY eye. The other day she brought home a makeshift muscle and was telling me about blood going to the heart. She’s four.

Look. I already know that my kids will be using tablets, laptops and other fantastic gadgetry in school. I’m all for it.

But with all that time spent learning and interacting with something digitally, the last thing I want my kids to balance is building virtual connections and friendships with their peers. I’m also well aware of what images, messages and expectations can be delivered via social networks. I want my kids to be kids and grow up naturally. 

The ultimate social networking for a pre teen should be meeting at the bus stop, playing foursquare and running around the neighborhood.  Social networking should be the trials and tribulations of playground arguments, crushes on first loves and other ups and downs of adolescence.

That’s quite enough for my kids to deal with, let alone going online to get bombarded by more messages to process.

I am a realist. Technology changes daily. I have no idea as to what advancements may be out there in 2022. I will say this - I’ll be pushing the ideaof ‘IRL’ communication and interactions like a broken vinyl record until then.