What Age Is the Right Age to Allow Your Child on Social Media?

How do you know when your child is ready for social media? The Rockville family law attorneys at McCabe Russell have guidance and advice.As Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s divorce continues to play out in the public eye, West recently posted (and deleted) on his Instagram, expressing displeasure that Kardashian allows their daughter, North, on social media, TikTok in particular. West both accused Kardashian of creating the joint TikTok account to antagonize him and that North was being used by TikTok for views.

World News Era reports that, although users must be age 13 and up to start a TikTok account and North is only eight years old, the account is a joint one between her and Kardashian, with Kardashian supervising. Kardashian also posted on Instagram, telling her followers she allows North to post on TikTok to “express her creativity in the medium that she wishes with adult supervision — because it brings her happiness.”

Regardless of whether your co-parenting issues are playing out in front of literally millions of people or just between you and your ex-spouse, the question of screen time and social media is an important one – and one upon which you and your co-parent must agree. Let’s see what the experts have to say.

When is a child ready for social media?

The publication West Coast Families notes that parents should take a variety of factors into consideration when deciding whether your child is ready for social media. Our Rockville family law attorneys would also like to note that it’s important you and your co-parent are both on the same page and ensure you are in mutual agreement when setting and enforcing social media boundaries.

Think about the following:

  • How old is your child? Most social media platforms (like TikTok, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) use the age of 13 years old for children to open their own accounts. However, contrary to popular belief, this has more to do with privacy protections rather than maturity levels. Keep in mind that even if your child is 13 or older, it doesn’t mean they are ready for social media.
  • Are they susceptible to peer pressure? Social media can be difficult for impressionable young minds. Per West Coast Families, “Two factors are shown to impact whether a tween is able to manage social media in a healthy way: Self-regulation, and susceptibility to peer pressure. The research tells us that if a tween can control her behaviour without your external control and can stand their ground with peer pressure, that bodes well for their ability manage social media sensibly.”
  • Have you weighed the risks? Discuss the risks of social media, including online predators and safety, and how your child should respond to them. Ensure your child also feels safe coming to a parent if they feel uncomfortable with something that happened online. Consider creating a social media behavior contract as a family, one that includes each parent.
  • Have you made your own social media account? Make your own TikTok or other account so you can supervise and oversee your child’s account. This doesn’t mean you have to comment, judge, or interfere in their social media; you can simply keep a watchful eye.

Pamela Rutledge, a media psychologist, told World News Era, “It’s so important to remember that all of this is much easier said than done. Talk with your children about why they want social media, what they plan to do with it, and share your concerns. Keeping the conversation open, about all things, will be beneficial to the parent-child relationship.”

How does social media affect children?

Although, as we stated earlier, most social media has a minimum age limit of 13 years old, many younger children are online anyway. The Cleveland Clinic discusses the effect of social media on children, citing several studies on the phenomenon. For example:

  • Children under 11 years old on Instagram and Snapchat tend to have more “problematic digital behaviors,” like participating in online harassment.
  • Reducing the amount of time a child spends on social media at this age may reduce some of these behaviors.
  • Children on TikTok have experienced tic-like attacks or even developed tics, a “movement disorder brought on by stress and anxiety — presumably made worse by the pandemic and teens’ increased social media consumption.”
  • Children’s social media use can also cause increased irritability and anxiety, and lack of self-esteem.

Child psychologist Kate Eshleman, PsyD, told the Cleveland Clinic, “If kids are being asked to get off social media and do their homework, then parents might see increased periods of irritability or frustration directed towards parents. They’re being asked to do something they don’t want to do and stop doing something they enjoy.”

However, it’s important to remember that social media has its benefits as well. It can help kids learn how to navigate relationships, build friendships with others, and how to deal with people who are unkind in a healthy manner. Not allowing them to use social media at all can actually have a harmful effect, and even lead them to creating secret (also called “ghost”) accounts.

Dr. Eshleman suggests talking to your child as a family, especially if your child is insistent on having an account. If they’re interested in a particular platform, ask what they plan on using it for and why. For example, she says, “If you hear about a popular TikTok trend or that a newsworthy story is trending, talk to your children about what they think and what they’ve seen.”

Our attorneys understand that matters of child custody and parenting plans are rarely easy. When both parents can agree on the big picture, things can run smoothly. When both parents can agree on the smaller details, things run even smoother.

Let the Rockville family law attorneys at McCabe Russell, P.A. help. Our job is to advocate for you while keeping the best interests of your children at the forefront. To talk to an experienced and compassionate member of our team, call 443-812-1435 or reach out to us through our contact form to set up a consultation. We also maintain offices in Fulton, Bethesda, and Columbia.