Parent Bashed for Not Letting 13-Year-Old Use Social Media to Talk to Pals

A concerned parent is being criticized for their decision to not let their 13-year-old daughter use Snapchat to talk with her friends over summer break.

In their post to the popular Reddit forum r/AmITheA**hole, u/aitasocialsm earned over 4,200 upvotes and nearly 3,000 comments for asking "[Am I the A**hole] For not allowing my daughter social media and in turn cutting her off from her friends?"

The original poster (OP) says that as summer break looms, their daughter has been asking if she can install Snapchat to stay in touch with her friends. Her request has been regularly rejected, leading the daughter to make a secret account—but when u/aitasocialsm found out, they confiscated her phone until recently.

"She's been getting increasingly desperate, telling me I'm runing her summer. Her friends only communicate through snapchat groups, and she's being left out of all their summer plans because she isnt in the group," u/aitasocialsm wrote.

OP countered that if her friends weren't willing to use a platform she has access to—in a comment, they clarified that she has standard text messaging and unlimited calls—then they weren't her true friends. They also pointed out that this summer, their daughter will be in summer clubs so she won't be isolated.

Though u/aitasocialsm is holding firm, they say that just about everyone they talk to—including their ex—says they're wrong and should let her go on Snapchat. They say that the lack of support has made them "half-tempted" to back down.

"People chastise you for allowing your teen on social media and then call you abusive when you dont allow it. You cant win," u/aitasocialsm wrote.

13-year-old snapchat reddit viral aita social media
A parent is being criticized for banning Snapchat for their 13-year-old daughter. iStock/Getty

One of the biggest parenting questions in the modern era is about when a child should be allowed on social media. The 1998 law, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act blocks companies from tracking data from users younger than 13. As such, most social media platforms set 13 as their minimum age requirement.

Though social media age requirements are in place, it's generally on the honor system, making it relatively easy for kids to bypass the requirements, according to a study by Lero, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Software.

"This results in children being exposed to privacy and safety threats such as cyberbullying, online grooming, or exposure to content that may be inappropriate for their age," Dr. Liliana Pasquale, the lead researcher on the study said in a press release.

When asked about the age requirements, advice columnist and founder of The Social Institute Laura Tierney tells a parent of a 12-year-old that while it's up to them to decide if their kid is allowed on Snapchat, they should make sure that the child won't use the app at the expense of doing homework and chores. Also, it's important to make sure the child is OK to coming to their parents if something difficult comes up.

"Whatever you decide to do, continue to keep the lines of conversation open with your daughter. Be empathetic -- knowing that social media for kids is just their way of being social, period," Tierney wrote.

Though Redditors said that u/socialsm was in the wrong, many sympathized with the position they were in.

"[You're the A**hole]. Slightly. Social media isn't something to inherently be feared, but it is something that kids need to be educated about. Cutting her off socially from her social circle will only make her get better about hiding things from you in the future and make her feel like she can't have open communication with you," u/VermidianK wrote in the top-rated comment with over 9,100 upvotes.

"I will say, I did this. My parents said no social media, especially no snapchat, but all my friends were on there! So I downloaded and deleted and downloaded and deleted," u/Disastrous_Pickle agreed. "Not to mention, 13 is a hard age. Kids are super stuck in their ways, and no are not going to accommodate your kid. They are going to continue with their summer and encourage your kid to hide snap from you.

'Teach your kids about predators, teach them how to stay safe and what inappropriate messaging looks like. She'll slip up sometimes, sure, but make yourself a safe place instead of an authoritarian and she'll be more likely to come to you when things are taking a turn for the worst," they continued.

"My mom didn't let me have a Facebook til I was 13, (which wasn't that big of a deal back then, so I didn't care enough to go behind her back about it) and when she let me make one after my birthday she first showed me the Wayback Machine and made sure that I understand that anything I posted online or sent through a social media platform was permanent, could be recovered, could be seen by weird tech dudes working in dev, and could be sold, even if I had the strictest privacy settings," u/bestsirenoftitan suggested.

"[You're the A**hole]. Not heavily, but I was convinced at 'if they can't communicate through other means, you can do better'. That basically infers she should drop a whole group of friends cos they have a social app you don't want your daughter to have," u/ld1101xbl wrote. "To that end, Snapchat has multiple features that make accounts secure from outsiders, if that's what's worrying you. By default all stories and chats are private, between those she has added, so she'd be completely safe as long as she sticks to her group of friends."

Newsweek reached out to u/socialsm for comment.