It’s inevitable that your child is going to want social media accounts. They’ve grown up playing games and watching videos on their tablets — why should Facebook be any different?

Actually, Facebook is for older people — at least that’s what your kid will say. Teens and adolescents are much more interested in YouTube, Instagram or, more recently, TikTok.

It’s hard for parents to know what’s the right thing to do. Here are some tips to decide what’s the right age for your child to be on social media.

What’s the legal age to join social media?

“More than half of American children now own a smartphone by the age of 11,” according to NPR. Easy access to a portable computer that fits in a pocket definitely adds to the temptation to sign up for social media. But what is the legal age to join most social media platforms?

Most social media giants follow the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act. “COPPA imposes certain requirements on operators of websites or online services directed to children under 13 years of age, and on operators of other websites or online services that have actual knowledge that they are collecting personal information online from a child under 13 years of age,” says the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

We recommend following the legal age requirements. Allowing a child to sign up early actually is encouraging lying and breaking the law. But is legal age the most important question to asking about social media?

Age isn’t the only question

It’s hard to nail down an exact age limit when all kids have the social and emotional tools to handle social media. Your child probably will encounter cyberbullying, harassment, doxing, illicit content, loss of sleep and, according to Psychology Today, even depression.

Instead of legality, consider if your son or daughter is ready for the risks and pressures of online life by asking:

  • What is their emotional maturity level?
  • What are their real-world friendships like?
  • Do they follow rules or are they known for rebelling or being impulsive?
  • Can they be trusted with this level of responsibility?
  • Do you have the kind of relationship that can allow open and honest conversations about social media?

You may want to wait a while, depending on your answers.

Social media can be a lot of fun, but it’s also a burden. Be honest with yourself. What are you comfortable with and what do you think your child can handle?

For more information

At Suburban Pediatrics, we’re here for you and your family every step of the way for all your child’s physical and mental health needs. Check out our additional website resources and follow us on Facebook.