CANDY ALLAN: Determining what's socially acceptable

When I was in junior high, it was a big deal if I got to use the phone to talk to my friends — after all, a bunch of kids don’t need to be tying up the line just to chatter about stuff they can talk about tomorrow at school.

Today’s kids have an array of options for contacting their buddies, with actually talking on the telephone being somewhere closer to the bottom of the list than the top.

My son is campaigning for a tablet. A social media account, or at the very least, an email account, can’t be far behind.

This is something my husband and I have been talking about for a while — when to grant access to the internet and in what form. Our son already uses the internet to complete assignments through his school email account and Google Drive. The school network, however, has built-in limitations that don’t exist in social media.

Many social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram, state users must be at least 13; some, such as Yik Yak and Skout, require users to be 18. Even for a simple email address, both Google and Apple require users be 13.

There’s a variety of reasons for this, but mainly it’s because of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which limits what information websites can gather from children younger than 13. Restricted data includes children’s names, screen names/usernames and geographic data, among other information.

When parents let younger children set up profiles with false information indicating the kids are old enough to comply with the terms of service, parents are essentially giving up those protections.

I don’t know how much being tracked online bothers people. If it doesn’t bother you that Google is paying attention to what you search for to show you ads for it, maybe it doesn’t bother you that the same thing happens to your child.

I’m more worried about everyone else online than marketers aiming to convince my child to buy the latest greatest version of a product. Concerns about cyber-bullying and predators are rampant online if you do even the fastest search about teens/tweens and social media.

And remember that “permanent record” we were threatened with as youngsters? “If you do something bad, it gets written in your permanent record!”

That may have been an idle threat when we were kids, but in the digital age, it’s a reality. Want a job? Clean up your Facebook profile before you start looking! For kids — especially who have never known a world without these online forums — there likely will be a LOT out there in cyberspace they’ll never get back.

I’m not against letting my kids be online. In fact, I’ve probably put as much about them out there as anybody has. Likely, it all comes down to a question of what you as a parent are comfortable with and the maturity level of your child.

So far, my kids haven’t asked anything, but I know that day is coming quickly. What did you do in your house? How did you approach it? Anybody have any tips for me? I sure could use some.

Let’s be honest, I’ve been making up this parenting thing as I go along ever since my son was born. I know there’s more experienced parents out there and folks with different ideas. Respond to my column by emailing me atcallan@pioneergroup.com, and you might see your thoughts in print in an upcoming issue of the Pioneer.