Too Young For Facebook?

By Kelli Bennett, Editorial Intern

Many teens consider the creation of their coveted Facebook account to be a rite of passage into the “teenage/mature world,”—at least my group of friends did.  I can remember the meticulous profile pic selection process and devising the perfect “about me” blurb.  I joined the “Facebook World” when I was 15 years old.  At that age, I probably did not use Facebook for the most positive reasons.  I mingled in my “friends’” business and probably divulged entirely too much information to virtual strangers.

As I remember my first Facebook experience, I am in awe that the creators of Facebook are entertaining the thought of opening the site to children under 13.

Some argue that this will be a good step for Facebook due to the thousands of under-aged users who have already accessed Facebook accounts by falsifying their birth date.  I understand their argument, but I feel there are alternatives to decreasing the amount of illegal users—a national ad targeting parental awareness of the issue, implement a more stringent application process, etc.

Facebook Educates. Or Not?

While Mark Zuckerberg has stated that there are educational offerings available to users 13 and under, several find this hard to believe; including myself.   The Wall Street Journal described Facebook’s possible decision as “a step that could help the company tap a new pool of users for revenue.”   I agree I strongly believe this is another attempt to gain more ad revenue from companies that target a much younger audience.

Check the Law

Critics of the change shouldn’t get worked up just yet.  Larry Magid of the Huffington Post, reminds readers of the provisions under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which states that to “obtain verifiable parental consent for the collection, use, or disclosure of personal information from children.”  Due to the expense and stipulations, Facebook has opted to ban children under 13 and avoid COPPA compliance; indicating that this will not be an overnight change.

Decisions, Decisions

Zuckerberg has yet to solidify any changes, but Magid urges him to do it right and do it for the kids.  “Whether we like it or not, millions of children are using Facebook, and since there doesn’t seem to be a universally effective way to get them off the service, the best and safest strategy would be to provide younger children with a safe, secure and private experience that allows them to interact with verified friends and family members without having to lie about their age,” he said.

The world would be such a better place if kids could partake in a secure and private Facebook experience, but the pessimist in me doubts that is possible.

We’ll see what happens.

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