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Should You Let Your Kid Join Social Networks?

Social media has changed the world. Some parents welcome the change and others dread it, but we should not keep our kids from participating. That being said, it's still easy find things to worry about. Here are five reasons why parents should feel optimistic about their kids using social media.

Education

The parents of today's toddlers will be more educated about the power, the pitfalls, the rules and the ramifications of social media than the current parents of teens. Let's face it, social media came at us like a landslide, and no one took the time to educate parents with the tools that their families needed to ensure a safe and positive experience on social networking sites.

RELATED: Internet Safety Tips

Social Media Offers Benefits to Our Children

As social media participants, steered by mom or dad into the right age-appropriate, youth-intended social network, our children can gain healthy advantages. Here are a few examples.

1. Supplemental education: Whether it's being in a kid social network that helps them learn about hermit crabs, or wanting to spell "Cincinnati" correctly, our kids are supplementing their education online at home or at school.

2. Digital literacy: Whether it's learning how to upload an image to a website, or learning what constitutes cyberbullying and how not to be a bully, your child, in the right kids' social network, will learn critical digital literacy skills.

3. Social skills: We may lament the decline of face-to-face interaction, but that is the reality. It's important that your child develops the age-appropriate interactive skills he needs while receiving positive reinforcement.

4. Validation and acceptance: There's nothing more encouraging to a child than when they receive community recognition for their contribution. Not only does social media participation provide this opportunity, but it also provides the opportunity to meet other kids who share the same interests.

RELATED: Children's Online Safety

Change Is Happening

While it may seem as though the Internet industry does not care about online privacy or making sure their products are family-friendly ready, change is happening. Social sites like Yoursphere, intended just for kids, take a proactive approach to protecting children's privacy. No private information is requested, and all profiles are always set to private and can't be changed.

Parents are starting to realize that helping their children "fudge" about their age to join Facebook doesn't promote the right family message, so they're talking to their kids about waiting until they're older.

The Social Media Landscape Has Changed

If you're old enough to remember the time before cable, when three television networks dominated television, then be excited for the change that's happening now online.

Just as the introduction of cable and on demand programming changed the TV industry, kids' social networks have emerged to change the Internet industry. For example, kids' social networks allow your children to be their true age, and there's no need to pretend your child is 13 or older to participate.

Mary Kay Hoal is a nationally recognized expert on children's online safety and social media. She is the founder of Yoursphere Media Inc., which publishes the kids' social network Yoursphere.com. Mary Kay also offers Internet safety tips for parents at YoursphereForParents.com.

Explore More: ask the expert, social networks
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