By Suzy Fielders

My daughter is amazed that I get paid to ‘play’ on Facebook for work. Yet I’m amazed that my seven year old knows what Facebook is and basically how it works.

As a marketing professional I strongly encourage professionals and businesses to have a presence on Facebook and other social media, but as a mother I am slightly less enthused about my sweet and innocent daughter taking part of Facebook in the near future. I’m certain the day she asks “Can I start my own Facebook profile?” is just around the corner.

In true marketing fashion I decided to poll other parents to get their thoughts on when their kids started using Facebook. Ironically I took to Facebook to run that poll!

First off, I do want to let parents know Facebook actually requires all accounts belong to those who are 13 years of age or older. However, it’s the internet which is by no means monitored so those under 13 can easily get an account by putting in a different birth year. If the account gets reported as the owner being under 13, then Facebook will delete the account.

From the mini poll I ran I found parents were divided on when they allowed or will allow their children to set up a Facebook account. Some parents started their kids out early at 13 or 14, some were on the later side with 16 or 18 and several even said NEVER! One thing that parents did seem to agree upon though was regular parental monitoring. Those that allow their kids to have Facebook said they have their kid’s passwords and check in on their activity frequently.

While I still have time to decide on when I’ll allow my daughter to get a Facebook profile, I do have plenty of family and friends whose kids have Facebook accounts. As someone who is on Facebook both professionally and personally I want to give a few tips that might not be as well known to parents of children on Facebook. These tips not only help your child to get set up on Facebook but also to help you as a parent protect your child – there are sadly a lot of ‘bad’ people out there!

• When you help to set up a child’s Facebook account make sure to go into the privacy settings and check ALL areas and post settings to just allow Friends to see them; otherwise, they usually default to public. Click on privacy settings, then go through each tab on the left side to be sure everything is set to Friends (not public or even Friends of Friends, because this can lead to unwanted views as well).

• Cover photos are public. This can’t be changed so advice your children to not put photos of themselves, friends, school or house there. Use flowers, ocean or other generic photos. Save personal photos for the profile and albums. The setting for each album needs to be set to ‘Friends’ as well, including the profile photos album and pictures.

• On the subject of posting photos, which most likely will be done from phones now, make sure to change your child’s phone setting to not do geo-tagging, which is where it picks up where the photo is taken. Each phone is different on how to do this so make sure to find the right directions on how to do this.

• Other privacy settings to take note of are the ‘who can look me up?’ These are usually set to public settings where anyone can find your child. There is even a setting to have the profile show on search engines (i.e. Google, etc) – make sure to turn this off. • Even with the privacy settings all set to Friends only, when a photo or status is posted it still has the option to show to public. Make your child aware of this so they do not accidently make a public posting.

• There is an abundance of ads on Facebook so be sure to set ground rules about not clicking on those.

• For children in the job hiring age – make sure they understand to not post anything on Facebook or any other social media outlet they would not want a potential or current employer to see. It’s very common practice for employers to check both potential and current employees social media profiles.

Now Facebook doesn’t have to be a bad thing for children and parents either. If done right it can actually provide parents and their kids with a whole new platform to communicate and see into each other’s lives in a different light. Parents can actually ‘see’ their child’s friends and things they post on Facebook, which can provide a whole new level of parental insight. What parent wouldn’t want to see what goes on in their child’s lives in a more direct manner? My daughter is constantly talking about her friends to me and it would be great to look on her Facebook profile and not only see what this friend looks like but get some idea of who they are by what is published on their Facebook profile.

One final note… before allowing your child to have a profile on any social media platform make sure they completely understand this concept: “Do not put anything up you will regret or do not want specific people to see. While a post can be deleted once it is seen it cannot be unseen and if it got shared or captured on the Internet it is out there PERMANENTLY!”