Social networking for tweens

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 network online.
  • 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, 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 habits.

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 bechecking 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 program.
  • 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 the show.
  • 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, ateen’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.

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