The life and times of a happy go lucky blogger in London
Social media debate: Teens and tweens…how do you manage access to social networking?

In this post, I want to explore the ups and down, ins and outs of social media and the habits of the younger generation.

A few years ago, I suggested Facebook Lite for kids, an idea which would maybe help parents let their children onto the social networking site but have some parental guidance in place.  Top bloggers like Crystal Jigsaw have also pondered the issue of social media for children and opened up an interesting debate.  When we have such great examples of children blogging like Martha Payne and her Never Seconds blog, I often think that holding children back is the wrong answer.


School girl Martha Payne challenged the catering at her school by writing a blog which has become a global phenomenon

School girl Martha Payne challenged the catering at her school by writing a blog which has become a global phenomenon


Last week, Simon Milner, a policy director for Facebook, said there was no mechanism in place to stop children signing up to Facebook, and we can ascertain from this, it’s quite likely other social networks are in the same boat.  Which leaves the onus fairly and perhaps  not so squarely of the parents, many of whom are not digitally savvy.

What does that leave parents?  I for one will not deny that my daughter has gone made for Facebook, signed up to Twitter to follow her favourite band and has very quickly learned how to use sites like Instagram.  It’s no bad thing, but it’s time consuming, and potentially putting other essential things at risk; family time, homework and sleep.  So where do you draw the line and where should it start?

For starters, do you know if your kids are using social network sites and if so, is it something they do all the time?

Hands up if your kid is obsessed with any of the following…

- smartphone?
- tablet (ie iPad)?
- computer or laptop?
- Facebook?
- Twitter?
- Youtube?
- other?

If your children are anything from the age of 10 upwards, or perhaps even younger, I’m guessing you got at least three out of six.  If not, be warned…you’re about to experience the phenomenon of crazed-social-t/weenager.  As a blogger and social media expert, I’m well aware of the highs and lows of using social media to stay in touch and converse with my own community, but I’m not sure how I would have managed to handle it as a child.  It’s a completely new way for kids to stay in constant contact with each other (and mostly covertly).

I’m having a lot conversations with other parents at the moment are dominated by the exasperated phrase…


‘It’s constant phone use that’s driving me mad – tap-tap-tap-tap- tap!’


So what’s to be done about it all?  Do you have the perfect answer to all of this, does any of us?

It’s a difficult path we tread these days, especially since social networks like Facebook don’t have any policies in place. Even though the official sign up ages for Twitter and Facebook are 13 – thousands, if not millions of children are using them.  What I’d really like to know, is how other parents are facing this and what measures you’ve put in place.  Are you banning your kids, managing their time or letting them explore and find out for themselves?

Please leave a comment below and let me know.  I’ll pull together a summary post in a couple of weeks.

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20 Comments to “Social media debate: Teens and tweens…how do you manage access to social networking?”

  1. I haven’t had to cross this bridge yet, but I think it is one that will need crossing sooner than I would have thought. I’ve been really impressed with the work the school are doing with children in Yr 5 & 6. They’re accepting that children will continue to use these networks, regardless of the suggested age limits, and instead they are empowering them with strategies for staying safe and being sensible about the time they spend. I think this is something that will probably need to be rolled out to other years fairly soon, and if primary schools also do what they can to educate parents, this will be a great help.

    It’s a hard one, but I don’t think it would be possible to prevent them from using social networks – if indeed that would actually be advisable or fair.
    Tasha Giddard recently posted..Really easy chocolate sauce

    • eva says:

      You’re right, the floodgates are open. There’s a lot of positive stuff about social networking, plus it’s great fun. My daughter loves chatting with her favourite band and fans on google+ or twitter. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to have that kind of experience with bands when I was her age. Education is the answer and interesting that year 5 & 6 are handling it. Someone at my daughter’s school told her it was illegal to be on Facebook which made it quite a laughing matter in the end.

  2. Lisa Teitler says:

    My daughter is 10 and she does neither Facebook nor Twitter. In year 5 , her class were given IPADs and given a lot of instruction on how to use them and what to be wary of. They use them for research, reading books, looking at tutorials(maths), etc..They have a facebook-like program called Edmodo which is a place they can ask their teachers and friends questions and have safely guarded chats. When she goes to Senior School,I’m sure everything will go belly-up. I find it worrying that alot of my friends’ children have Facebook accounts that have no privacy protection,so anyone can see their profiles and pictures, as Facebook often changes these perimeters or the parents just are not aware. My partner worked on something for Facebook and was told that 80 percent of children already have a blueprint (Birthday, where they live, photos) – some even before they are born( parents posting baby scan etc.)and Facebook is using these profiles for marketing and advertising other products. Yuck.

    • eva says:

      wow – that’s definitely a bit worrying, scans are a big thing on Facebook. I agree on security setting, it’s something everyone forgets about and needs to check on regularly x

  3. My take on this is that it isn’t just a teenager issue – more generally it seems Social Media is used so people can remain constantly in contact with one another and the expectation has developed that posting a message or sending an email will lead to an immediate response. At work it’s normal to expect a pretty immediate reply to an email from anywhere in the world so the idea of immediacy is widespread and children are aware of that. They can watch what they want and listent o what they want whenever.What makes it more of a concern with younger teenagers I think is their relative inability to be aware of how much it’s become an obsession (might be a bit strong to say addiction although some features of an addiction do seem to be there in smartphone behaviour). I think it’s difficult to know the best way of influencing my children’s behaviour when the behaviour is with something I’m not familiar with. If they were listening to music, smoking and looking out the window for hours on end I would be in a much more familiar place to understand and perhaps influence their behaviour. I think we need to learn about the things they are using and if its not possible to negotiate appropriate behaviour (like no phones under the bed covers) we absolutely have to set rules and enforce them. We do it all the time so why not with SM. I have a feeling the issues are as much to do with the physical smartphone as the media though – I did offer my daughter a deal recently – I’d let her do what she wanted on SM as long as she did it on a laptop and not the phone. Absolutely no way.

    • eva says:

      There seems to be a lot of bargaining and haggling coming through on these comments and also the pesky smartphone is the villain of the piece/peace. I think if kids are going to use social media so avidly, they should at least try and do something positive with it; supporting good causes and getting their friends involved. I guess at this stage, it’s all very experimental and novel and fatigue will set in, as Clare and Chrissie have said, Facebook isn’t such a big deal for their kids. Also, parents who get their heads round social media have a head start in understanding how much time it can drain with constant updates and a never ending stream of comments etc.

  4. Rachel Clare says:

    With our 16 year old use of facebook has almost stopped, now she is constantly communicating on her iphone on the loo, in bed, in the bath, walking down the road. Even before mobiles we had a rule to not answer the (landline) phone during meal times. This has been harder to maintain with iPhones bleeping from pockets or hidden on laps under the table.

    The thing that concerns us is that our teenagers find it hard to switch off from the constant dialogue they are having on twitter/Facebook/instagram. I want them to engage with us as a family just for a short time round the table as we eat together. We insist that her phone is not at the table but there are often excuses to nip to the next room or pop to the loo. This dialogue continues into the night and I’m aware that even if our 16 year old is in bed early her phone is on her pillow and communication continues late. They are presumably all keeping each other awake. Then she says she can’t sleep. I’m not surprised as it’s all too stimulating. What about reading a book I suggest but she just groans. They just don’t know how to switch off.

    • eva says:

      There’s a ban on electronics in the bedroom after 9pm but kids are devious and that now means a 30 minute rash of facebooking and texting first thing in the morning, so the next rule is no phone or laptop until morning stuff is all done; getting dressed, breakfast and so on. It’s tedious having to be the big bad wolf and guardian of it all and I’m having to stick to it steadfastly. As for mealtimes, totally agree, that time should be sacred. Interesting that facebook fervour dies off after a while. Twitter however is another matter!

  5. chrissie Pagnottta says:

    Our son (15 on Sunday) got into FB a couple of years ago, fortunately not too seriously. When we insisted that we as parents should be able to look at it now and again, he just stopped using it! I have seen a few worrying comments on it by some of his friends which I can’t disclose, and have since spoken to my son about never writing anything that you would not want Tom, Dick or Harry to know about because we just don’t know who has access to it. Now he is totally addicted to his computer games, PS3, skype. Its worrying that he would rather have a virtual game than meet his friends for one! We have to limit the time/day and have started a 2 days a week of none of the above, which has caused untold arguments and glum faces. Sometimes it seems that that is the only thing that is really important to him. I hope by limiting the time, we are helping to curb the addition. This is what it seems like to us, an addiction. It’s not going to go away, but I think we have to set limits in place and make sure we do plenty of other things with our kids,whether they like it or not!
    Recently got an ipad and the 3 year old loves the story books we can get on line (also helpful if running out of time to read oneself) and the art/design that can be done on it.
    Any comments or help gratefully received for our very soon to be 15 year old boy.

    • eva says:

      Thanks for the reminder about his birthday! Rationing screen time seems to be a good solution and boys seem to like gaming more than girls (as far as my experience tells me). Arguments and glum faces are also part of the adolescent phase but kids seem to be very happy to use computers and games consoles as a proxy for seeing each other and they seems to be something that’s not going away.

  6. Coming from an education background, we have many parents coming to us concerned that their child is spending too much time on social media and not focusing on their studies or family life. I don’t think there is a magic solution for this but you have to join the conversation and embrace the fact that your child will be using these mediums. We have found that students who use social media regularly are a lot more informed about the wider world and can engage better with their peers. We advise parents that you have to join the conversation online and encourage your child to know the different between what is real and what isn’t. The key is engagement and conversation. Don’t impose on their personal social media space but encourage them to separate it from their daily life.

    • eva says:

      That’s a great insight to share so thanks for that, I think everyone who starts using social media has a heavy usage pattern but it is rare for children to be so engrossed for so long so I suppose parents find it worrying but glad to hear your enlightened view, thank you

  7. writeonmum says:

    Hi Eva – great post! We’ve all heard flummoxed parents say “there’s no guidebook to being a parent” which is true…sadly. But now with the rise of SM there seems another huge chapter that we need to add to that non-existent guidebook along with tantrums, sex, drugs, alcohol, piercings etc etc…! I remember having huge arguments with my oldest daughter when she was around 12/13 about MSN – trying to get her to limit her time because she couldn’t understand what harm it was doing spending hours online. To her, hours on MSN ‘chatting’ to her friends was just the same as me laying on my mum’s bed at the same age chatting on the phone for hours after school to my friends. Nowadays I’m having the same argument with my youngest (almost 13) about FB and BBM. They don’t know any different – this is in their lives, it’s what they DO. It’s like the phone was to us. And I know if SM was available in my day ‘the olden days’ as the kids like to call it, then I would be just as attached to the SM as they are. However, being a mum and knowing that there needs to be a cut off, I do the same ‘switch it all off after 9.30′ . I thought this course of action was working until I discovered an old iTouch (which I thought was broken but youngest managed to get working again) under her pillow! However, I do love the educational aspect of it all – my youngest is a massive home video fan and wants to make movies when she’s older and she’s learnt so much by getting in touch with other young vloggers and you tubers.
    writeonmum recently posted..Teenage Beauty

    • eva says:

      Thanks Lisa, you’re totally right, every generation has their thing and yes, totally agree ther is no guidebook, rule book or bible when it comes to all this but it’s brilliant to have everyone air their views because most parents seem to be facing the same challenge but all challenges have an upside. It’s better to be open and liberal rather than ban it all outright – and ooh, your youngest is devious, had to have a bit of a snicker about the iPod touch

  8. Lindsey Cape says:

    great post Eva. the hard thing for me is when I tell my girls off for too much screen time, or using their phone at the table when we are enjoying food and conversation together…and then I do it! I have lots of work on and have to use my laptop all evening to catch up. Or I’m waiting for that all important message on my phone and I grab it to read at the table and I hear three loud giggling girls ‘MUM, NO phones at the table’ I’m guilty too. How do we switch off?? Well, it’s late so I am now switching off. :)

  9. Juliette Henry says:

    A very welcome debate over a really important issue. Do we really want to acknowledge the unfiltered information that our kids can access when they are far more advanced (than most of us novices) at using social media.
    As a teacher, I fear we have unleashed the monster without really thinking through the consequences of largely unregulated access our kids have to this information. For our teens Facebook is “OVER” . Relief? No … least then we might have pretended to have some control over who or what they were looking at or talking to. Now it’s the Instagram/Twittersphere that dominates the average 14-15 year olds life. I don’t even want to think about other images and sites they might be seeing. I can check history here, but how many other screens do they use?? I would say the only hope is to keep open the dialogue….keep talking to them about what they are watching/ listening to and why. Be interested…..

    Perhaps this is their thing…if so, great! – but let’s hope they (and we, as parents) develop the tools to manage it. Keep up the good work Eva!! xxxx

    • eva says:

      Thanks for the comment – the government was committing to managing the online world with the Children’s Panel, a co-ordinated cross industry body and working group. However, that’s not really working fast enough and the ‘bad stuff’ out there will always try and circumvent the rules and avoid compliance. New regulations passed last week will make the likes of Google responsible for the content which it lists so maybe we can expect some changes, but let’s not hold our breath. I totally agree – keeping the dialogue open is the way to handle this but it’s still a worry.

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  11. Ollie says:

    Your post is a timely cotinrbution to the debate

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