Is there any research on pros/cons of allowing young kids (8-11) to participate on social online networks (age appropriate ones, not Facebook)?

Just to be clear, I mean participation with the assumption of 100% parental control and supervision, and in moderation in terms of time consumptionm, not affecting other parts of life.

What interests me is the effect of the actual social networking aspect of social networks, positive or negative.

What I'm NOT asking about:

  • I'm well aware of and not interested in things like danger of child predators or accidental exposure to age-inappropriate material which parental supervision can eliminate or mitigate sufficiently.

  • I'm not asking about effects of a child choosing to socialize online at the expense of other activities including in person socialization.

  • I will assume you mean for the child to have his/her own account? – Noah Jun 13 '14 at 14:16
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    If that's the case, then I'd strongly advise against it until your kids are 13, mostly due to the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. Sites like Facebook do not allow accounts for users under the age of 13, and misrepresenting your child's age is a violation of their Terms of Service, as it forces them to violate federal law. – Noah Jun 13 '14 at 14:23
  • @Noah - Yes, that would be a safe assumption to make. But with 100% full access and monitoring by the parent to that account, perhaps realitime – user3143 Jun 13 '14 at 15:54
  • @Noah - I'm not an expert but I recall that there are explicitly child-centric social sites. I didn't mean Facebook necessarily. – user3143 Jun 13 '14 at 15:55
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    For sites that are specifically child-centric, then that's at your discretion. Many "all-age" social networking sites don't want to deal with the COPPA-compliance headache and just don't allow sub-13 users (check their terms). I'm also interested in the associated research, so I +1'd the question. – Noah Jun 13 '14 at 16:13

Social Networking Sites (SNSs) and Social Media in general are important mechanisms in building and mirroring one's social networks. There is a general tendency to think of SNSs as more dangerous than general social interactions. While that might be true in some cases (e,g, cyber bullying), SNSs tend to amplify our networking abilities and access to different social networks.

Privacy issues become more salient when discussing social media because of context collapse (http://itlaw.wikia.com/wiki/Context_collapse) where social groups that are usually disjointed in our day-to-day interactions become less divided online. For example, all your Facebook audience would see your posts unless you create lists and use other privacy settings to assure that only a subset of your Facebook "friends" actually gain access to your posts.

Giving children access to social media sites at younger ages will allow them to train on the proper strategies to adopt when managing their social relations on social media sites.

With sufficient parental guidance, children would gain from use of social media on the long run. Remember, you cannot always watch out for them on social media. There will come a day when your children have to exercise their own judgement on such sites. Research as shown that parents cannot always keep tabs of the children's use of social media. Sources: e.g. (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1460-2466.2012.01669.x/full)

  • Note that "All your audience would see your posts" is not generally true; they all CAN see it, but the odds of anything showing up in a specific timeline are quite small and many of your friends will not see what you share. This is perhaps the biggest con to social media: you are putting your social interactions under the control of a corporation and many are not even aware of it. – Erik Aug 21 '15 at 7:39

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