Q: When I told my fifth-grader she couldn't have a
Facebook account because she's not 13, she asked for a LinkedIn
account. Should I object?
A: Social networking is a popular way for young
people to communicate with friends. Tweens who don't meet
Facebook's age requirement of 13 may begin to look for alternative
social networks to join.
How does LinkedIn compare to Facebook when it comes to
tweens and teens?
- Social vs. professional. Facebook is
a social network originally designed for finding "friends" or
personal social connections. In fact, 22 percent of connections on
an average Facebook profile are high school connections and 20
percent are family connections. LinkedIn is a social network
designed for business connections and is the largest professional
- 13 vs. 18. Facebook requires users to
be at least 13. This age is in compliance to COPPA (Children's
Online Privacy Protection Act), which forbids the collection of
information from children under 13. LinkedIn requires users to be
at least 18.
- Exciting vs. boring. It may
be unfair to call LinkedIn a "boring" website, but most teens
looking for the excitement of social connections will find it
exactly that. Posts are business-oriented and rarely personal.
Teens are more likely to see PowerPoint presentations than photos
of a vacation and will likely become disinterested.
- Now vs. later. LinkedIn is not for
kids, but they can benefit from this network after high school. For
now, an under-13 social network is a better option. Steer your
tween toward Fanlala, WhatsWhat.me or Everloop to help them find a
social network to join.
Q: My son compulsively texts and surfs
the Internet on his phone-even during commercials when he watches
TV. How can I break him of this habit?
A: Watching today's youth interact with their
tech devices can bring about some strong emotions, especially when
it comes to cellphones. Kids seem to do everything with a phone in
their hand or on their person.
Today's tweens and teens are often referred to as
connected consumers, meaning they are interacting with their cell
phones during or between other activities. While a constant
nose-to-the-smartphone isn't good for anyone, understanding exactly
what this connected generation is doing on their phone will help
guide your decisions when it comes to curbing bad
Not all activities might be harmful-in fact, before you
scold your teen, try asking these questions to get him talking
about his activities and connect face-to-face:
- What are you looking up? Twenty-two percent of
adult cell users admit to using their phones to see if something
they heard on television is true. This can be true for tweens
watching a sporting event or a program on science, or who are
curious about a TV star.
- Are you visiting a website? Smartphone users
visit the website, fan page or online store in response to a
commercial or program they are watching. They may be checking
the program schedule for their favorite sitcom or buying the
soundtrack of an artist they saw on "American Idol."
- Are you on Facebook? Teens watching a popular
program might be posting their comments in real-time on Facebook or
another social network. They might also be voting-popular shows
like "The Voice" and "So You Think You Can Dance" encourage
the television audience to weigh in with their vote during the
- Who are you talking to? Watching a program
together no longer requires that kids sit in the same room. Texting
is an easy way to keep the conversation quiet without interrupting
- What are you up to? Today's cellphone users
can do many things during the 17 minutes of commercial
advertisements on TV (the average for a one-hour television show
during prime time). They may be playing an interactive game (Words
with Friends), checking their email, browsing Facebook, checking
their bank account or calendar, setting their alarm for the next
morning or making notes about their homework.
- Will you look at me? Even if he is spending
time texting grandma, a teen's bond with his phone can be
distracting. Set aside times when phones are put in check to
encourage a better balance. Asking about their activities can
create an opportunity for great face-to-face conversations.
Sharon Cindrich is a mother of two tech-savvy kids from Virginia Beach. Learn more at sharoncindrich.com.
See more of Sharon's stories here.