12 and under on Facebook?

Jun 22, 2012

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It's no secret that millions of Facebook users do not follow the age requirement for usage. Children under the age of 12 are invading social networks every day. Many parents openly admit to helping their children go live on Facebook even though the age requirement to set-up an account is in place.

According to a Consumer Reports Study, about 5.6 million kids under the age of 12 have Facebook accounts. Most of these children's parents know about it but do not discuss online safety practices. These staggering rates will only continue to soar. The question remains, “how can websites protect children if the first Internet safety precautions are not taking place in the home?”

According to the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA), Internet websites must obtain parental permission before collecting personal information from users under the age of 13. The problem arises when children join Facebook regardless of the rule. It makes it impossible for COPPA to protect those children. So how does Facebook plan on abiding by the laws set by COPPA and still keep its broad audience?

Fortunately, the makers of Facebook are not brushing aside this obvious problem. They're taking steps to allow kids to use the social network while remaining safe. The idea is to connect children to their parents' accounts; therefore, giving parents the control over what their children can do while using the social network. Parents would be in control of whom their kids can “friend” and what applications they can use.

Facebook has said that it is trying to “best help parents keep their kids safe in an evolving online environment.” Already it offers a social reporting tool and digital safety resource page for teachers but continues to develop software. More developments will follow as this underage problem continues to put children in danger of cyberbullying and online predators.

I work for ContentWatch and all opinions expressed here are my own.