Children's Expert Concerned by Possible Facebook Age Limit Change

June 13, 2012

While Facebook’s possible age-limit change might excite kids under age 13, a child psychology expert at Children’s Medical Center (www.childrens.com) is among those advising caution.
 
“The primary concerns I have are privacy and the fact that children do not have the ability to fully comprehend the ramifications of their online actions,” said Dr. Peter L. Stavinoha, manager of psychological services at Children’s.

“At a young age, kids should be interacting face-to-face with others,” said Stavinoha, who is also a professor of Psychology/Psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. “Social media is incompatible with this means of communication, and we don’t want children thinking that’s the appropriate way to communicate with people.”

Facebook may let children under 13 create online accounts with parental supervision. A Facebook spokesperson said they have technology that will allow parents to proactively oversee friend requests, applications and other activities. In addition to psychological experts such as Stavinoha, parents, privacy advocates and lawmakers have expressed concern.

Online security is a major concern for many parents. On social networks, children can unknowingly put themselves at risk by posting pictures of themselves, their locations and personal information to billions of other users. 

“You can monitor your children up to some level, but you can’t control the actions of others,” says Sheila Elliott, the Frisco mother of an 11-year-old boy and 9-year-old twins. 

Elliott has a Facebook account, but does not let her kids have one. One of the twins, Colby, is a patient at Children’s Medical Center who has undergone multiple open heart surgeries. “Having to monitor their accounts would just be adding one more stressful thing to the list,” Sheila Elliott said.  

Elliott reached out to her friends on Facebook and got their thoughts on the matter.  “The majority agreed with my view on social media encouraging our children to grow up quickly,”
Elliott said.  “And they grow up fast enough as it is.”  

Dr. Stavinoha, who is a parent himself as well as a nationally known parenting expert, says these tips are good ways to monitor your children’s online activity:

  • Keep the computer in a public place

  • Check the history

  • Use protection software

  • Know e-mail and all other accounts

About Children’s Medical Center

The not-for-profit Children's Medical Center is the fifth-largest pediatric healthcare provider in the country, with 559 licensed beds, two full-service campuses and 10 outpatient sites. Children’s was the state’s first pediatric hospital to achieve Level 1 Trauma status and is the only pediatric teaching facility in North Texas, affiliated with UT Southwestern Medical Center. For more information, please visit www.childrens.com.