By Colleen Cleary, Monday, June 11, 2012, at 9:00 am.
[Originally posted on Euro RSCG’s Social Life and Social Media blog.]
This week, Facebook confirmed that it is developing parental control technology that will allow children under the age of 13 to use the site. My first question: What took it so long?
Currently, those aged 13 and under are supposedly prohibited from creating a Facebook account because of a federal law that restricts websites from collecting personal data from children without parental consent. It’s a law that Web companies say is hard to verify and nearly impossible to enforce—hence my use of “supposedly.” I mean, really: How many under-13-year-olds do you know who have a Facebook page? And all they had to do was claim that they were 14—or 87 (that age group likes to answer the personal questions in absurdist ways, making themselves extremely older, indicating that four of their closest friends are siblings, etc.).
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) chair, Jon Leibowitz, acknowledged tween use of Facebook and said that the FTC will review and update the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) for the first time in years. (Again: What took so long?)
Though Facebook currently bans users under 13, a Consumer Reports survey estimates that nearly 7.5 million Facebook users are in that age group. With Facebook’s stock price already in trouble, this new technology could be a boost. It would give the company a whole new group of legitimate users, with a corresponding potential increase of ad revenue.
Cyberbullying has become a hot topic in the media; will the new technology and parental controls help to dissuade online hatred? What if parents aren’t engaged enough once their tween initially sets up the account—will bullying run even more rampant?
Experts on Facebook’s safety advisory board have suggested a parental approval panel, where a parent can approve who their children friend and which applications they run. There is also an argument about whether Facebook for tweens would allow advertising. But with the scrutiny from Wall Street, can Facebook really afford to give up the potential revenue?
All of this discussion raises the question: How young is too young? While we know kids under the age of 13 are already using Facebook, will changing the rules encourage more users to join? Or will it simply police those already using the site? We already know that our children are spending too much time in front of screens; shouldn’t we be encouraging them to spend more time outdoors? Where’s the social network and/or app for that?
This entry was posted on Monday, June 11th, 2012 at 9:00 am. It is filed under Advertising, Features, Social Media, Technology, Youth and tagged with bullying, children, Consumer Reports, cyberbullying, Facebook, Federal Trade Commission, Jon Leibowitz, parental control technology, parents, social network, tweens, Wall Street. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
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