Facebook Explores Allowing Children Under 13 to Have Accounts, But Why?

Family Matters on 06.05.12
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Despite Facebook's ban of children under age 13 from using its service, The Associated Press is reporting that some 7.5 million children are using it illegally, and Facebook is taking new steps to try to determine if there is a way for these kids to do so safely and legitimately at a younger age. But why do kids that young need a Facebook account at all?

The reason for the minimum age requirement seems to have little to do with them being concerned about the safety of children and more to do with the fact that parental consent is required when gathering information from children under that age, and since Facebook heavily relies on collecting the information of its users, it is easier to ban the use of it for younger children. While some children set up their own accounts and lie about their age without their parents knowing, many of the kids who are using it when they aren't supposed to be are doing so with the help of their parents who are lying for them and helping them set up the accounts or doing so with the parent's blessing.

I am not opposed to Facebook. I use it regularly both personally and professionally and welcome the benefits of it such as allowing me to re-connect with long lost friends, share photos of my family with faraway family and friends, and grow my business. But when I look at Facebook and kids, while I understand they may use it for sharing photos with friends and social interactions, I also see it as an easy way to put a child at increased risk for bullying or just in general putting them in situations that they are too naive to handle in their tween years. Technology is wonderful, and I don't think kids shouldn't be able to use it, but there are things like email, texting, and Skype that allow kids to connect one-on-one without it having to be an online group format. Most kids under age 13 are trying to figure out how to interact in face to face social situations still, and it's important that they build those skills and don't bury themselves in the computer to socialize.

The safety precautions Facebook is considering include having these under 13 accounts tied to their parents' account and requiring parents to have the final say on who the child can be "friends" with as well as only allowing "friends" to be able to see the child's wall and not allowing any advertising on the walls of these accounts. That's a good start, but my kids don't have friends in faraway places yet or need to share pictures with people that I can't help them with from my own phone or email account. There's plenty of time for that down the road and until they're much older they can talk on the phone or play with their friends in person.

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