Millions of young kids are already on Facebook, even though the site can’t legally allow anyone under 13 to create a profile. And if the previous statement were a status update, Facebook would “like” it.
The popular social networking wants all youngsters to be allowed; this way they can begin sharing early. Consider this: When anyone shares on the site, Facebook benefits by allowing marketers to use the data and it makes money. Giving all kids the right to sign up would insure the site’s continued dominance.
Weeks after Consumer Reports announced in June 2011 that 7.5 million kids age 12 and younger are on Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg made it clear that he wanted to challenge the 1998 act, known as Coppa, which prevents websites from collecting personal data about kids under 13 without permission from their parents.
As a New York Times article discusses, it’s not known how joining Facebook at a young age impacts kids. Some say it's essentially harmless and fun, while others argue it exposes children to bullying and harassment.
Zuckerberg and others in Silicon Valley, believe that nonstop sharing, at every age, is inevitable, so we might as well allow everyone to do it.
One concern is the default privacy settings Facebook uses, especially considering research shows that most people never change their settings. Many people of all ages are sharing things without realizing it. With young people, the situation only worsens.
Facebook is taking action against the dangers of sharing, although none of these addresses privacy concerns. The following are three examples mentioned in the article:
- the site uses a technology to find and remove child pornography;
- it's a partner in law enforcement's Amber alert system for missing children;
- and, in September, the social network started testing a special e-mail address with a small group of principals and guidance counselors that gives schools an inside track for urgent reports on bullying and fighting.
In contrast, the Federal Trade Commission wants to require websites to get parents' permission before they can track the online movements of kids under 13 for marketing purposes. And a bill recently introduced in Congress, called Do Not Track Kids, would bar websites outright from using kids’ data to target ads to them until they are 17.