Q. "When is it appropriate to let your child have his own Facebook account?" -- a mother in Charlotte
A. Every child is different, but Facebook says at least age 13. "I have friends whose kids have set up their own e-mail account and MySpace account, and the parents only found out because of issues that these things caused with other kids," says one mom of two boys. "My husband and I felt like it was better to allow our 12-year-old son to have a Facebook account on our terms and within our guidance."
It is a privilege that can be taken away, not a right, she says.
Issues about networking sites, movies, smart phones, texting, television, all media, need to be an ongoing discussion between parents and kids, not a one-time, have-at-it decision, says a mother in Raleigh. "I get the impression that seemingly intelligent parents do not know what to do when faced with these requests from young children," she says. "Giving in with little monitoring seems to be the common parental response."
The mother of teenagers says she started having the discussions when her kids were age 8, and has not minded the ubiquitous label: "The only mom in the world who won't let me ..."
One elementary school teacher notes that there is plenty of technology available that's "safe and cool" for younger kids. But two problems she sees in school: students stumbling on images and ideas they are too young to process, and staying up way too late on the Internet and watching television.
Technology allows for 'round-the-clock access to entertainment media. Who will say enough is enough? It's got to be the parents, according to Marybeth Hicks, author of "Bringing Up Geeks: How to Protect Your Kid's Childhood in a Grow-Up-Too-Fast World" (Berkley Trade, 2008, $14).
In the book, a resource for negotiating ideas of what's appropriate for children, Hicks redefines the word "geek" as a "genuine, enthusiastic, empowered kid." Her advice includes: Set limits on what kids are exposed to, and be their parents, not their buddies, to help them resist peer and media pressure.
Dr. Eitan Schwarz, author of "Kids, Parents, and Technology: An Instruction Manual for Young Families" (lulu.com, 20109, $26.20), says parents should not be afraid to take charge, but should not be afraid of technology, either. Embrace it, learn about it, and develop a plan that changes as your child grows up.
One mother whose son begged for a Facebook account did not want him going behind her back, so she consented. "Our middle schooler sees, hears and can get anything he sets his mind to at school. Kids, myself included, become incredibly sneaky to find ways around forbidden fruit rules."
Some parents opt to become a member of Facebook, too and insist on "making friends" with their kids to maintain access to their profiles and see what they are posting and what others are posting. A must-have rule: No accepting friend requests from strangers.
--Check your child's page daily and give him one chance. Breaking your rules means the account is suspended.
--Set up all parental controls and every privacy setting offered, and pay attention to new options offered.
--Look into buying software that limits the Internet content your child has access to, and tailor settings for your family.
--Be aware of worst-case scenarios: Facebook came under increased scrutiny recently after the conviction of a serial rapist who posed as a boy on the site and later killed a teenager. Facebook recently announced new safety measures.
Can you help?
Q. "My 3-month-old baby girl is not a good napper. She sleeps for maybe 10 minutes at a time, or a little longer in a swing." -- a mother in Raleigh
Betsy Flagler, a journalist based in Davidson, N.C., is a mother and teaches preschool. Reach her at email@example.com.