Facebook may let children under age 13 use the site

Consumer Reports News: June 04, 2012 03:53 PM

Consumer Reports recently released the results of a survey that indicated at least 5.6 million children using Facebook were younger than age 13, in violation of the site's terms (that's down from 7.5 million in last year's survey). Now, the Wall Street Journal reports, the social network may be looking for a way to turn these children into legitimate users.

From the story:

Mechanisms being tested include connecting children's accounts to their parents' and controls that would allow parents to decide whom their kids can 'friend' and what applications they can use, people who have spoken with Facebook executives about the technology said.

Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, said that any move to permit younger children on Facebook should be backed up by a strong, robust policy to ensure that parents have full control over their children's social networking experience, and also to ensure that children's information is not collected to target them with ads and marketing, as per the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

Ioana Rusu, regulatory counsel for Consumers Union, said:

More than 5 million pre-teens have managed to sign up for Facebook accounts. While we are glad that Facebook is seeking to address this problem, the company needs to ensure that it creates a safe, child-friendly space on the site, one that is fundamentally different from the space available to teens and adults. Facebook has to provide parents with effective tools to monitor and supervise their pre-teens' activities. Plus, it shouldn't collect information about these children for ads and marketing. If Facebook is serious about making the site a safer place for kids, it has to deliver stronger controls and education aimed at parents, and it shouldn't target kids with ads.

Facebook explores giving kids access [Wall Street Journal]

Facebook & your privacy
Five million Facebook users are 10 or younger
Facebook's Zuckerberg wants to let kids under 13 onto site
Study: Many parents shrug at Facebook age restrictions

Carol Mangis

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