“You have a right to demand the password for your children,” Overland Park, Kan., Police spokesman Gary Mason said. “They’re your kids and you should be actively looking at what they put on the Internet.”
There are other ways to give a child freedom, he said.
Of the parents surveyed, 71 percent believe that 13 is the right age to let their children use Facebook. Christophersen said that’s usually the right choice.
“People keep saying ‘what age, what age, what age?’ Well, it depends on the maturity level,” he said. “If you’ve had a kid that has just been a pain, why would you give them unlimited access to the Internet?”
Facebook restricts children younger than 13 from opening an account, although it’s not uncommon for children to fib about their age when signing up.
Once a child has a social media account, Christophersen insists that parents get passwords and join their child’s circle of friends to see posts and pictures.
Social media are not private like a diary, he stressed.
“If your child has a journal, it’s none of your business what the child says in it,” he said. But Facebook and Twitter, he said, aren’t a journal.
Pictures and posts live on the Internet to haunt or humiliate a child forever.
“Parents,” he said, “make the mistake of assuming the Internet is safe until they find out otherwise.”
After decades of work, he’s seen it all. Teenage lovers texting pictures of their genitalia only to wind up in jeopardy of spending their lives on a sexual predator list. He’s talked to angry parents upset about discussions their children had online about sex. Most of the time he ends up counseling the parent to use common sense: Monitor your child.
Many parents don’t know how to navigate social media and trust teenagers to tell them if there is a problem.
“If you do a survey of teenagers they will probably tell you that the car is safe even though it’s the biggest risk to their life and limb,” he said.