When Should You Let Your Child Use Social Media? A Parenting Expert Weighs In - Exclusive

Part of the challenge of parenting is knowing when to let a child be independent, and how much leeway to give them. Social media use is a particularly large dilemma.  Should you let your child open a TikTok or Snapchat account? Is it okay for them to post photos online? 

On the one hand, social media is one of the primary ways kids connect with one another. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry reports that 90% of teens between age 13 and 17 use social media every day. During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, homebound children used it as a lifeline to express themselves and talk with friends. On the flip side, social media can be harmful to kids' mental health; the Child Mind Institute quotes studies that point to a link between social media use and depression in tweens and teens. Among the possible reasons: online bullying, unrealistic representations of beauty and fitness, and a lack of in-person contact. In fact, experts suggest that giving up social media for even short periods can lead to better sleep, more productivity, and closer personal connections.

How do you know when your child is ready to launch their own social media account? The List spoke exclusively to Cathy Domoney, a world-renowned parenting expert, author, mentor, and CEO of the online network Parenting Evolution. She explains that there are no hard-and-fast age limits, but there are definitely rules a child should be able to follow.

Set smart rules about social media use

Parenting expert Cathy Domoney tells The List that parents should use their own judgment about letting their children use social media. While most apps have an age minimum of 13, some kids may not be mature enough until much later. (Though The List users say Facebook is their favorite platform, their children might disagree). "Then I recommend that each family create a strict user policy around what is and is not acceptable, and a clear understanding that if these guidelines are not adhered to, then the privilege of using the platform can and will be revoked," says Domoney. 

Common Sense Media and KidsHealth recommend these social media rules: Use privacy settings, and don't let your child accept followers they don't know. Tell your child not to post identifying information, and to think twice before posting anything potentially embarrassing or hurtful. Setting a time limit for phone and computer use is also a smart move.

Domoney adds that keeping the lines of communication open is key. Let your children know they can always come to you if they have a question or if they encounter cyberbullying. "Our kids have stumbled across some unfortunate things online, and because of the sacred environment that we have worked hard to create, they are able to tell us so we can talk it through, without judgment, and navigate the situation together," she says. "This gives them a sense of ownership and responsibility while reassuring them that they do not have to hide things from us."