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Facebook is looking to bypass privacy/safety issues and make a little money in the process

Facebook already has over 900 million users, but it's looking to grab the attention of a new age group -- children under 13.

Currently, Facebook bans its social networking services to those under the age of 13. Users are required to fill in their date of birth when creating a Facebook account, ensuring that all who join are over that age limit. Facebook does this because of privacy concerns, where children could potentially be exposed to inappropriate content shared on the site or be contacted by strangers.

However, many children lie when filling in their birth date to bypass Facebook's "13 or older" rule. In fact, Consumer Reports said that 7.5 million children under the age of 13 had a Facebook account last year. Over 5 million users under the age of 10 had a Facebook page as well. Another study, conducted by Microsoft, showed that 36 percent of parents were aware that their children under the age of 13 had joined the social network.

This puts Facebook in an awkward position because people have found a way around its rules, which could potentially put children in danger. Inevitably, people would blame Facebook for a child's harm despite the disclaimer that users must be 13 years of age or older.

Now, Facebook is looking for ways to allow this younger age group to join without worrying about privacy and safety. A couple of solutions include connecting children's Facebook accounts to their parents', where their activity could be monitored, and parental controls where a child's parents can see and control every aspect of the child's Facebook experience, including who they become friends with.

"Recent reports have highlighted just how difficult it is to enforce age restrictions on the Internet, especially when parents want their children to access online content and services," said Facebook. "We are in continuous dialogue with stakeholders, regulators and other policy makers about how best to help parents keep their kids safe in an evolving online environment."

This new move could benefit Facebook a few different ways. Not only does this cover Facebook in the event of a dangerous situation happening to a child, but drawing this age group in could also mean dollar signs in the way of gaming.

Last year, Zynga, which is a game development company associated with Facebook, made up 12 percent of the social network's $3.7 billion revenue. Facebook users play Zynga's games through Facebook and pay for certain features of the game if they please. Bringing children under 13 to the site could give the gaming sector of the social network a major boost.

While this seems like a great financial revelation for Facebook, it will have to deal with child privacy groups first. Some have already expressed concern with Facebook's latest idea, saying that the vast site is no place for children.

Facebook must also face a pending review by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is considering applying the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 and regulating what information can be taken from children on the Internet. With Facebook constantly collecting information from its users, this could be a big issue.

Facebook is always looking for new ways to engage its audience. For instance, there are rumors that the social network plans to release its first smartphone next year, where it will provide the software and HTC may provide the hardware. With Facebook stretching into every realm of our lives, it will be difficult keep children away from the site for long.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

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Get 'em young!
By martyrant on 6/4/2012 10:52:32 AM , Rating: 4
Steve Jobs gave schools Macs in the 80s/early 90s for a reason. Get 'em young!

Corporations are always looking for new ways to exploit, no matter who the target it is and who's protecting them.

In reality, Facebook started only for college users, who really just used it to stalk or meet potential hook ups, harass, and be obnoxious...seems like a good place for a child under the age of 13 to be.

I personally stopped using it years ago because I saw the direction it was going, but it's good to see the masses using something that really isn't beneficial in any way or form (people always say "but it's a great way to keep up on people's lives!")...these are people in reality, you would never call, or talk to, outside of being able to anonymously look at, stare, and stalk their movements online...If you want to know how someone is can still pick up the phone and call that person and talk to them.

I think we're just going to be a bunch of socially awkward tool bags in the future.

Thanks, Facebook.

RE: Get 'em young!
By unsprung on 6/4/2012 11:09:23 AM , Rating: 4
(people always say "but it's a great way to keep up on people's lives!")

For acquaintances, which is what most "friends" on Facebook actually are, you're probably half right with your whole point. For family and old friends(real ones) when you live in a different country, it actually is a good way to keep up.

RE: Get 'em young!
By KFZ on 6/4/2012 12:41:05 PM , Rating: 2
I still remember the Apple IIe as the first computer my little fingers ever touched. OK, so Oregon Trail wasn't very educational, but when I typed assignments and watched humbly as a dot matrix printer shrieked out the poor graphics and obtuse font that was my work, I didn't realize at the time that it was good exposure to emerging technology.

Today, kids are exposed to gutter trash over Xbox Live and terabytes of pornography just keywords away. In a world where everyone is too caught up in their own worlds and it's impossible to keep children safe within theirs, I give it up to modern parents. Life was not necessarily better "back in the day", nor is parenting ever easy, but it sure as hell was simpler before the Internet.

Good parenting abides all.

RE: Get 'em young!
By FITCamaro on 6/4/2012 2:24:34 PM , Rating: 2

RE: Get 'em young!
By ATrigo on 6/4/2012 7:45:56 PM , Rating: 3
Children are no to be kept safe. They are to be taught how to make themselves safe. Parents should worry on how to teach their kids to be wise and fend by themselves... instead of worrying if the world provides unbreakable little glass jars for them [the kids] to be forgotten.

RE: Get 'em young!
By pakigang on 6/5/2012 3:36:40 AM , Rating: 3
either you don't have kids or have no experience with kids. They need to be kept safe before they get mature enough to understand responsibility. Its a repeat course of teaching them till that age.

RE: Get 'em young!
By FITCamaro on 6/4/2012 2:23:59 PM , Rating: 2
Todays Apple's don't in any way compare with those in the 80s and 90s. Apple has the market share it has because a) they legitimately had better, faster machines for content creation prior to switching to Intel processors and its still riding that train and b) image.

That said, Facebook for those under 13 is ridiculous and personally if I was a parent, I would refuse my kid access. I don't care if it would make them "uncool". I hope if they do offer access, they make a provision be that parents must give consent in some secure, not easily bypassed way.

I know ultimately anyone can get around anything if they want to enough. But doesn't mean parents shouldn't try if they choose to.

RE: Get 'em young!
By NellyFromMA on 6/4/12, Rating: 0
RE: Get 'em young!
By Reclaimer77 on 6/4/12, Rating: 0
"Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be." -- Steve Ballmer

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