At what age should you let your kids on Facebook?

Pictured: Too young for Facebook.
Pictured: Too young for Facebook.

Facebook becomes more ubiquitous each year -- in July of 2010, the site reportedly surpassed the 500 million active users mark. Young people make up a sizeable portion of that usership. But with the psychologically scarring threat of cyberbullying growing increasingly common, and the peril of online predation prominent in worried parents' thoughts, it might seem better to keep kids sheltered from prying eyes and cruel classmates.

According to Facebook's statement of rights and responsibilities, kids have to be at least 13 years old to create an account, although it's not hard for children younger than 13 to create one anyway, and many do. Therefore, it's important to keep tabs on what your children are doing online and make sure they're consistently behaving smartly and safely -- even if they haven't hit the magic 13 threshold yet. Chances are decent that, if left to their own devices, they'll have an account long before then.

Just as you'd assess your children's maturity level before determining whether they're old enough to be left home alone, part of the decision to allow kids on Facebook is focused around whether you trust them to conduct themselves online in ways that won't lead to trouble. You also need to examine whether you think they are psychologically prepared to handle any negative online interactions instigated by others. Also, how much do you agree with Facebook's decision that 13 is the earliest kids should participate on the site? Do you think yours can handle it at a younger age? Or do you think that 13 is a little too early for a Web-based profile?

It's a controversial topic with no cut-and-dry answer, but on the next page, we'll look at some more aspects to the issue that can help guide your family's decision process.