Despite problems in recent months with its initial public offering (IPO), Facebook still sits on top of the mountain when it comes to social media. As a result, millions of young people find themselves with social media accounts on the world’s social networking leader, begging the question: How young is too young to have an account?
In recent times, the thought has been put out there that Facebook will consider authorizing membership to children under 13 with parental permission. As it stands now, there are millions of children under 13 with illegal accounts, an issue that can present a number of problems for both child and parents.
Problem Already Exists
As one child-privacy advocate sees it, the Federal Trade Communication (FTC) and Congress should consider making it so that Facebook creates a section for children under 13 and requires opt-in parental permission.
How comfortable would you be as a parent letting your young child peruse all Facebook–or any other social media site for that matter–has to offer? Would you trust your child’s instincts to know right from wrong, worry that someone who means them harm could come in contact with them, or be concerned they would spend too much time on this type of site?
It is important as a parent or just someone that is concerned about a younger relative, student, or friend, that you remind children why Internet age limits exist in the first place.
Remember, there is a reason individuals are not allowed to drive until a certain age, have their first alcoholic beverage until a specific age, or serve in the military until they reach a particular age. Even though being on the Internet at a young age can seem harmless, there are dangers out there in cyberworld that await kids without the proper security system in place.
Before you let your child sign up for a Facebook account under the age of 13, think about some of the risks they could come in contact with, which include:
- Being a potential target for sexual predators
- Giving out personal information that could put them (or even you!) in jeopardy such as credit card numbers, bank accounts, or social security numbers
- It requires more supervision time from you, the parent, meaning you are taken away from other tasks and responsibilities
On the positive side, allowing a child under 13 to have a legitimate Facebook account means:
- More openness between parent and child
- You can make an agreement with your child that they must get your approval before posting any personal information and/or visiting sites
- Given that many kids under 13 already are on Facebook illegally, you’d be better able to monitor more users and validate user information
Are Stricter Privacy Controls Coming?
As Facebook and billionaire owner Mark Zuckerberg sees it, given the fact that millions of children under the age of 13 already have illegal Facebook accounts, allowing them to sign up legally (with their correct ages) would give the social media giant the ability to put in place stricter privacy controls for those in that age range.
That being said, some social media experts believe tighter privacy controls are not exactly on Facebook’s economic agenda.
As of late, Facebook has been trying out means whereby kids under 13 could be on the site without lying about their age, most likely under parental supervision. Once such way being discussed is having children’s accounts linked to their parents’ accounts.
In the meantime, do you monitor your child’s time on social networking sites? If not, do you worry that trouble is lurking on the other side of the screen?
About the author: With 23 years of experience as a writer, Dave Thomas covers a wide array of topics from online security to identity theft.