Facebook Democracy?

By Ariel Glickman 07.02.2012 blog

In an effort to increase revenue, Facebook may soon give access to kids under 13. The company is currently testing privacy settings and parental controls to alleviate concerns about safety and confidentiality. Accounts for those under 13 may be linked to their parents?, and parents would control friend requests and the applications their kids? used.

Parenting experts remain skeptical of Facebook?s new policy. According to Common Sense Media CEO James Steyer, Facebook does not provide any social or educational value to children under 13. Instead, he suggests that the new program would have a negative impact on the social, emotional and cognitive development of children and the company?s inability to tackle already existing privacy issues.

But even if Facebook?s approach didn?t change, age restrictions would remain difficult to enforce. In May 2011, Consumer Reports found that 7.5 million minors using Facebook were younger than 13, and 5 million were younger than 10. Kids lie about their ages to register, which makes it difficult for Facebook to regulate whose personal information it collects. Under the Children?s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), personal material about children under 13 cannot be gathered without parental consent — the same reason you’re not allowed to register on this site if you’re not 13 yet. Facebook counters, however, that new technology will help parents manage their kids? use of the web site. Last fall, a Microsoft Research Study reported that 36% of parents knew their children joined Facebook before they had turned 13. Some of these parents also probably helped their kid sign up. The new policy would dissuade children under 13 from lying about their birthday to join.

For Facebook, this is still an uphill battle. The implementation of this particular new Facebook policy may spur debate on Internet privacy rules in Washington, D.C. While COPPA only concerns a minor?s personal information, the Federal Trade Commission is currently reviewing the law — and considering an expansion that would include safety controls on behavior profiles and web-surfing habits.

What do you think about the possibility? Did you sign up for Facebook before you turned 13? Do you think it’s a big deal to lie about your age?

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