It was bound to happen. Facebook is considering new technology that would allow kids under 13 to join the social network, The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday.
Although the new Facebook Jr. (my name, not theirs) wouldn’t permit advertising, it’s obvious why Facebook wants to allow young kids. The company needs to invest in future users–especially since their recent IPO underperformed and word is that teens no longer think Facebook is cool.
Kids are the consumers of the future and Facebook knows that brand loyalty is established early. Better to hook them on Facebook while they’re young — especially since Facebook wants to compete in the online gaming marketplace.
As Mashable.com recently wrote, if teens are losing interest in Facebook, “the company has to find ways to keep things fresh in order to avoid becoming MySpace Wasteland 2.0.”
I’ve read some commentary arguing in favor of allowing young kids on Facebook.
One argument is that parents are lying about their kids’ ages to get them on Facebook, so why not let them do it in an honest way that can better safeguard kids’ privacy? The other argument I’ve read is that a new Facebook for kids would be like training wheels for Facebook — by giving them a special kids’ account, children could learn about how to safely use the social network under their parents’ supervision.
Facebook is looking into technology that could provide parental controls for kids’ accounts so that parents could oversee who their children can “friend” and what applications and games their kids could use. That all sounds good to me, but it should be applied to kids under 18, not under 13.
“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,” Facebook told The Wall Street Journal. “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.”
Amazingly, 19% of 10-year-olds are already on Facebook. By the time kids are 12, 55% of them are on Facebook, according to a survey by online journal First Monday.
But rather than changing the rules to allow kids under 13, Facebook should focus on educating parents about why their kids shouldn’t be on Facebook until they turn 13. ”The idea that you would go after this segment of the audience when there are concerns about the current audience is mind boggling,” James Steyer, chief executive of Common Sense Media and author of “Talking Back to Facebook,” told The Wall Street Journal.
What do you think? Should kids under 13 be allowed on Facebook? Is your kid on Facebook?
Photo: Annette Shaff/Shutterstock.com
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