Facebook Wants Childen Under 13 to Join Its Site
June 4, 2012 10:17 AM
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.
The Wall Street Journal
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