Here we go again. It seems like there is always a story linking Facebook and children. Although, you may have known this already, Facebook has an age minimum for their users. That age is 13. I suppose at that age, when you become a full fledged teenager, you are expected to have a certain level of maturity and common sense. You also probably have a thriving social life. Thirteen year olds are typically concerned with crushes, shopping, videogames and simply hanging out with their friends. When I was 13, my friends and I didn’t have Facebook or Twitter but we made it work with MSN and Yahoo messenger tools and the good ole landline telephone. With social networking sites like Facebook, people can keep in touch with their friends and even with people who aren’t.
The only problem with children doing this is that they are a vulnerable target. Child molesters and abductors prey on children over the internet more than ever with the help of social networks. Even the most sophisticated teenagers above 13 years of age are susceptible to the cunning lures of perverts. This is why Facebook has made it a priority to make it hard for children under the age of 13 to create and maintain an account. Facebook removes thousands of underage users on a daily basis.
While it is expected that parents monitor their child’s internet usage, it is unrealistic to believe that this alone will stop kids from gaining access. According to Consumer Reports’ newly released State of the Net Survey, Facebook has 7.5 million users that don’t meet their age requirement. More than 60% of these users were 10 years old or younger. In total, Facebook has 20 million users that are minors, or under the age of 18. Almost half of the minors using Facebook aren’t even teenagers yet. To get accounts, these kinds lie about their age and usually hide the fact that they use Facebook from their parents. Sadly, some parents are aware of their child’s Facebook usage and condone it. The ones that do usually fail to monitor and supervise them.
The survey also revealed that Facebook users under their age minimum rarely became Facebook friends with their parents. When parents are friends with their child on Facebook, they can monitor their child’s activities more easily. Privacy settings however can restrict parental access to what their child is doing. A disproportionate amount of parents request becoming friends with their children because many children have Facebook accounts that their parents aren’t aware of.
The issue at hand is that Facebook simply can’t enforce their user requirements. Even if they remove thousands of underage users every day, there is a new crop signing up at the same time. It is ridiculous to think that they will be able to weed out the 7.5 million underage users. Users will probably meet the age requirement by the time Facebook catches up with them. The fact that so many of the users are under the age of 10, really says a lot about the lack of parental control.