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How Young Is Too Young For The Internet?


Things sure have changed over the years. When mobile phones first hit the scene, only a select number of people utilized them - a lot of time, they were purchased for emergency purposes. As the years wore on, more consumers saw the value in having a phone line they could use wherever they were, but owners were still of an older age range.

Today, that is no longer the case. It seems like everyone has a phone, even people some would deem "too young." According to a study detailed in Child Guide magazine, the average American child receives his or her first phone at just six years old.

With the assistance of a mobile phone, children and teenagers are becoming familiar with the internet and social media at a much younger age. Applications like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat are popular among youths, with 71 percent of teens using more than one of these outlets on a daily basis and 24 percent of this age group reporting they go online "constantly," Pew Research Center found.

These are astounding figures, especially considering how relatively new many of these social media sites are and how quickly they've become so ingrained in everyday lifestyles. Yet, not all parents are the same and many ask, "How young is too young?" when it comes to these public outlets.

Children's Online Privacy Protection Act

While some families may not see the harm in allowing their children to register for social media sites or surf the Web, adults will want to be conscious of the federal regulations protecting children from releasing too much information online.

The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act went into effect in April 2000, and requires websites that want to accept users that are 13 years old or younger to follow certain rules. These guidelines relate to collecting or disclosing a child's personal information, obtaining verifiable parental consent and the responsibilities of the site operator to protect a child's safety and privacy online.

It's important for parents to be aware of this law, as it aims to protect children from any danger they may encounter online. Even with this regulation, however, kids and teens can get into trouble on the internet and social media. Families may need to discuss safe online practices to ensure children are as protected as possible when creating their digital identity.

A different generation

The bulk of internet and social media users have been around since these tools' inception. Signing up for Facebook began when the first generation of registrants were in college. That's what it was originally designed for, after all. That won't be the case as time continues to pass.

It's common for parents to worry about their child being online too early. According to The New York Times, however, this is more of a generational fear. The majority of children born in the last 10 years will have a digital history and identity before they're self-aware. This is due to parent's uploading photos, videos and personal information as the child grows up. It will be interesting to witness how this generation reacts to having an online presence without having a hand in it.

Ultimately a family decision

There's no right or wrong answer to the question, "How young is too young for the internet or social media?" Instead, every family must make that decision together - or parents will have to enforce that choice when a child comes of a certain age.

Parents can take certain steps to protect their children, including setting profiles to share as little information publicly as possible and requesting usernames and passwords for regular monitoring, CNN reported. This enables children to have some freedom while making sure they're utilizing the internet and social media websites in a safe manner.

With so many new social media sites popping up over time, it's easy to understand why children would want to use the outlets to interact with their friends and family. Parents, however, worry about their kids' safety and want to make sure they're not at risk online. The debate regarding the right age for certain things has shifted from movies, television and music to social media. These websites open the door for access to many different types of media, worrying parents in the process. At the end of the day, families should note the age restriction for online usage in place by the federal government and create policies within their household to ensure kids' online usage is safe.

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