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Whether you like it or not your child will probably have access to a computer and the internet at a very early age, by the age of 5 these children will be able to use many areas of a computer and surprisingly enough the first thing they remember is how to connect to the internet.  
Has your young child asked for a Facebook account yet?  

Sites like Facebook MySpace and Twitter are being blocked from many school networks as they are not suitable for young children, which is right those sites are not, but young children are aware of these sites, they see their parents or guardians and siblings using the networks and understandably they want to join in.
(I’ll just remind you that sites like Facebook, Bebo and MySpace  set minimum ages of around 13)
Why shouldn’t they become involved? We can teach them how to use social networking sites safely and efficiently when they are young so that by the time they get to teenagers they know how to keep safe and be more responsible. Firstly by showing them how important it is to customise their settings. Secondly and as important how to behave and communicate on line.
I think we should encourage children have their own blog sites as well, its great, it encourages them to use their imaginations’, improve their writing/typing skills and IT skills. It doesn’t have to be personal it can be about their favourite subject.
There are so many child friendly, safe networks that your child can join, on various lists, that are   designed just for younger children, and which grown ups can monitor.  
Here are just two of them,
http://togetherville.com/
Togetherville is linked to Facebook, thereby adults who possess a Facebook account can sign up and register their kids
or
Education is right at the heart of the Moshi Monsters experience. Every day your child’s monster will create a series of fun puzzles that test everything from vocabulary and arithmetic to logic and spatial skills.
I haven’t personally tried these sites as my son is much older than this now and I wouldn’t want to join on my own, for research purposes? What would people think! –  but have seen some good reviews on them, just Google them for more information.
I’ve seen Habbo hotel on some lists, which I wasn’t very impressed with a few years ago. I’ve no idea if it has changed but at that time there were older children there, that obviously haven’t been taught how to communicate online, so not favourable for the younger ones. You need to be with them when they try these different networks so you know if it is suitable. 
Don’t let them feel left out or feel they have to lie about their age to get on to the sites they should not be on, because they will.
If they are going to go on social networking sites anyway, we may as well start teaching them ourselves, and at a young age when they are not going to complain about us looking over their shoulder or knowing that we are monitoring them.  It could even become some “together” time.
There are many reasons we could be against this and want our children as far away from social networking or the internet in general  but we live in a social media age, its going to happen eventually and there is little anyone can do to stop it. So take charge and educate them as soon as possible while they are  young enough to know that parents/grown ups know best.
Like we obviously do 🙂 



Illustration provided by ……..Me.