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How Young is Too Young for Social Media?

As many of you know, the birth of my first child (a boy!) is imminent. We just crossed the 39-week mark yesterday and we are just buzzing with excitement in the Krzmarzick household.
So I set up a Twitter handle for him already: @WizKidKriz
And, of course, I am planning to create a GovLoop profile for him. 🙂
Though Krzmarzick is an unusual name and he probably won’t have much competition for LinkedIn and Facebook names, I am still wondering if I should nail down a social network presence for him.
Do I set up a Gmail account?
Should I start him on FourSquare so he can aspire to prominence as the Mayor of McDonald’s on Main Street in Durham?
I don’t have easy answers to some of these questions.
And they aren’t necessarily trivial.
In fact, Alan Silberberg (@You2Gov) just cautioned me on Twitter:

Granted, I don’t plan to encourage him to be tweeting and posting Facebook updates by the age of 3 or buying him a mobile phone at 5 (maybe when he goes to school he’ll need one, though 🙂

So what are your thoughts?

How young is too young to get started with social media?

Originally posted on the GenerationShift Blog.

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Ryan Erickson

A gMail account would be easy using a self hosted domain… or are you thinking of something like [email protected]? In that case get it now; however, being a parent I too know full well that if you do that now he won’t want/like it. 😉

Andrew Krzmarzick

Thanks, Ryan. Probably will just his name or variations of initials for gmail. WizKidKriz is just something fun for now…probably set up some separate accounts on Twitter, too…just in case. GovLoop and Facebook would just be for placeholders, too…using real name.

Tina M Borger, CPPO

The apple does not always fall close to the tree…he may be like you and love being connected and engaged, or he may truly live in the clouds and be a dreamer-type who prefers to keep his thoughts to himself. You can plan and hope, but children will be who they will be. The good news? You’ll love him either way. So do what you want, create his online presence, or not, just let him be who he turns out to be. 🙂

Andrew Krzmarzick

Good advice, Tina. I’ll definitely adhere to that insight…it’s also highly likely that the technology and tools will change immensely by the time he’s old enough to use it…or not. 🙂 So definitely open to letting him fulfill his unique vocation in life…just getting him plugged him if he wants to include a digital/virtual component to the journey.

Amanda Blount

As a Mom, my worry was not the tech side, but the safety side.

My children were allowed their own online use of social networking at the age of 13. BUT, they could not use their real name, and they could only use the computer in the living room. Plus, they could not change the password from what I used. AND everything had to be private, and I told them I must approve all friend request until they were 16, and then I still looked over their shoulders until they were 17. BTW – Until 17 my kids were not allowed TVs or computers in their rooms. Yes, a little strict, but at least they had something to look forward to when they turned 17.

On their spaces, they could not post their age, name of school, or real city (we always used to say the “Nashville area” in public places). These early steps taught them to be open with the internet, yet safe and smart.

Whatever you set up, remember that their are bad people looking for children to take. Sad but ture. So, if you have a virtual place and blog for the little one, I would not use his real name until he is over 18, unless you are in full control over who “talks” to him and sees his photos.

I know all of this sounds too cautious, but even with all these controls, and my constant guidance, my Son (at 15) still was able to set up a date with a girl he met on the internet. Of course I would not let him go until he got her phone number and I called her parents. THEY were furious she made a date with a strange guy on the internet. This one worked out ok, but that “girl” could have easily been a grown man (or woman).

My advice (and you will get plently); Yes, set up all this stuff, but, just be careful with the real name of your son, and your location. For his blog – his could be something like Mr K! That could be something he could use all through his life. It is cute as a baby, and it is cool as a teen.

In any case, you will be bombarded with information – so just go with your gut. No two kids are the same.

Andrew Krzmarzick

@Amanda – those are some great practical tactics and I am going to keep them in mind!

@Savi – this past Christmas, I suggested that my family should set up a social network just for us using Ning…could keep us connected, share photos just between us…and if it was sustained for generations, could be a really cool way of capturing our family legacy.

Anybody know of a great blogger or resource for ways to keep your kids safe online…building upon Amanda’s tips? Thanks.

Andrew Krzmarzick

Hey Gwynne! Great advice…especially on the books and just being together…and can’t wait for the day when he’s teaching me something!

Oh, and this whole social media thing regarding the kid is really not a big deal for me…just posing it as an interesting question more than really that concerned about getting him all set up digitally. I am sure he’ll be into something soon enough…and it may not have anything to do with technology/social media!

Just hope he’s healthy at this point… 🙂