Should Facebook remove the 13 year old age restriction?

The blogosphere ignited this week when a Wall Street Journal article was released detailing how Facebook is exploring ways to allow users under the age of 13 to ‘officially’ access the site. It is no big secret that youngsters lie about their ages to create Facebook accounts, and their parents are typically aware of the deception and often willing accomplices.

Privacy advocates, technologists, pundits and prognosticators all weighed in with arguments both for and against opening up access to younger users.

Here are just a few of the ‘For’ arguments:

  1. Young children are already active on Facebook, so why not put proper safeguards and protections in place to better secure their social networking environment.
  2. We are social creatures, and it is important for children to learn proper social skills both online and offline.
  3. Educational benefits – teachers are using social media as a communication tool and applications and Facebook pages could be developed to provide instructional material.
  4. As social media becomes more ingrained into our society, it is important for children to learn how to use these tools and platforms effectively.

It really doesn’t take much imagination or thought to come up with reasons why the age restriction shouldn’t be removed, but here goes:

  1. Pedophiles and Internet predators would use Facebook to lure in and search for victims. (Not that they aren’t doing it already.) Also, children might be victims of cyberbullying at a far younger age.
  2. There are numerous privacy concerns at stake. People generally do not like the idea of Facebook tracking minors and amassing a storehouse of data on their digital activity.
  3. Some psychologists, parents and educators believe that children are not mature enough to behave appropriately or handle the stress or potential abuse that could be directed at them.
  4. Facebook hasn’t done the best job in keeping scams and spam off of the site. How or why should we trust them to create a safe environment for the young and innocent?
These lists are by no means exhaustive, but serve to provide a general pulse on the issue. Either way it goes, parents will need to be proactive and intrinsically involved in the process.

Recommended Resources

BitDefender Safego is a Facebook application you can install that will scan your News Feed and help keep you safe from scams on Facebook.

PRIVATE WiFi® is a Personal VPN that encrypts everything you send and receive. Don’t access Facebook from a public WiFi hotspot without it.

Do Not Track + is a FREE browser plugin created by Abine. This easy to install plugin keeps websites from tracking you. If you value your online privacy, then you should definitely take advantage of this free product.

Action Alert | Free Parental Control offers a 100% free Internet safety solution designed for parents. There is also a Maximum Protection option for parents that need a more advanced set of tools.

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