Innovation: Education

Common sense advice for tween social media use


Apparently, asking friends to follow HennesseyGirlsMom on Instagram would be social suicide.

Susan Hennessey, Professional Development Coordinator

My 12-year-old twins are counting the days to their 13th birthday in April, anticipating with much more urgency than past years their special day, all so they can finally triumph over the tyrant of online limitations…the dreaded Under 13 Terms of Service rule.

common sense advice for tween social media use

According to the infographic Trending Tweens: How Kids Use Social Media, 21% of kids under 13 are subscribed to (at least) one social networking site.

Our family rule on social media and app use is to follow the legal restrictions posted on each site’s “Terms of Service” page, much to my daughters’ dismay.

The work around in the past has been for me to create an account and then share that username and password with them; it’s worked well with apps, but when it comes to social media, they balk and put up a mighty stink, liberally peppered with tween girl drama.

Apparently, asking friends to follow HennesseyGirlsMom on Instagram would be social suicide.

Common sense advice for tween social media useCommon sense advice for tween social media use


I was on a mission to find resources explaining why the under 13 rule exists that would resonate for them, and not rely solely on the simple answer of the importance of being a law-abiding citizen. The gist for me, getting them to truly understand the data tracking and gathering that is at the core of most business models. I needed common sense advice for tween social media use.

I appreciated finding this post from Alpha Mom Lessons Learned: Kids and Instagram because it mirrored my experience and provided this good advice:

I’ll also utilize some of the tools the website has for parents as well as their online use contract for kids to sign. Sure, a contract may seem a little silly, but that plus a social media discussion will reinforce to the kids the seriousness of the situation.

Then, I found a pretty impressive new “choose-your-own-adventure” type resource from Common Sense Mediacalled Digital Bytes that provided exactly the information I was looking for to start that social media discussion:

The Online Tracking module, which I selected, provided a short context-setting video that got my girls’ attention.  Then, Ted Kovac’s Ted Talk Tracking Our Online Trackers provided just the right amount of provocative information to prompt a a real discussion, effectively moving us away from a “because I said so” conversation into one where they genuinely wanted answers.

If you want to know more about data tracking, check out Dan Tynan’s good post Explained: Here’s How Advertising Tracks you Across the Web

Susan Hennessey

Susan Hennessey is a reformed librarian and current professional development coordinator with a particular interest in digital credentials and scavenger hunts. She's addicted to flavored almonds, salty, crunchy snacks, and Google Hangouts.


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