Too Young for Social Media? - FOX10 News | WALA

Too Young for Social Media?

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(WALA) -

Chances are you've heard the saying, two sides to every coin.  Well, the same phrase can be applied to social media.  There can be positives and negatives to using social media  -- actions that can bring negative outcomes with long-term consequences.

"Once that message leaves your phone, or your tablet and goes out into the wild…it's out there…and that bell can't be un-rung," warned Daphne-area Cyber Investigator, Dan Dollarhide. 
It's a conversation that played out in Caroline Jaye's home.  Before she was 13, Caroline had her own social media accounts.  "Because I really wanted it...I wanted to be social with everybody," she explained.

She's on Instagram, Snapchat, and TBH.  She had to convince her parents first, and there were strict rules.

"We had set times when she was allowed to use the phone. We talked about phone etiquette, and what are appropriate things to do on the phone, what to talk about," said Blair Hartley, Caroline's mother.

Being a teacher, Blair Hartley says she knows all about the problems that can arise when kids go online.  She didn't want that for Caroline.

"As long as I have the passwords and can monitor here and there, and I can monitor that she's using her social media safely…I feel confident that she's building the responsibilities that she needs by being accountable for what she posts," she said.

But some experts say despite good digital parenting like monitoring your kid's accounts, talking about cyberbullying and inappropriate posts…there's another element parents might be missing.
FOX10 News Anchor Lenise Ligon spoke to Baldwin County behavioral therapist Stephanie Williamson.  Williamson believes that children under 16 just don't have the hardware upstairs to make smart decisions online.
"Their brains are not ready for this it's like handing them the world. It gives them a lot of access that they don't know how to manage yet,"  Williamson explained.

And that's not all.  She says the constant stimuli from being online at such a young age could lead to real problems when they're older, including impulsive and addictive behaviors.  "It starts to create pathways in the brain that led later to future addiction. So you're already stimulating those dopamine levels every time they get a little 'ding' every time a message comes in or someone comments your brain goes right to it." 
As it stands, the youngest age a person can open a Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, or Snapchat account is 13 years old.  And it's even older for YouTube and Tinder.  
It's not necessarily a parental guide, these popular social networks are doing so to comply with a federal law called COPPA, or the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act - which protect your child's information from being collected and shared by advertisers. 
Bottom line, age restrictions matter.  Experts say if you must let your child have a social media account, make sure you have open communication with your son or daughter.  That way you know what they are doing and they feel comfortable coming to you if something happens. 
Parents can even take it a step further, and read some of the terms and condition and privacy policies to know exactly what their child is signing up for.  
As for Caroline, she's setting her own boundaries.
"I'm not centering my world around my phone," Caroline said.

She has a social media curfew, mom knows her passwords, and the rule is no social media until responsibilities are taken care of first.

"It's been a double edge sword.  But it has taught her so many responsibilities…and I know that we are building a really good foundation," added Hartley.

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