To be or not to be… under 13 on Facebook? 

That is the question now!

Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities clearly states: You will not use Facebook if you are under 13. However, it is a well-known fact that a large number of Facebook users haven’t reached this “critical” age.

Kids lie about their age in order to create a Facebook account

A recent survey conducted in the US by Computer Reports shows that around 5.6 million underage kids are Facebook users, despite the social network’s efforts to close such illegal accounts. And some parents even cave down and create the accounts for their kids, just because all of their friends have one.

Now, it seems the social giant wants to grant everybody access to their network, regardless of age. According to The Wall Street Journal, Facebook is developing technology that would allow children younger than 13 years old to use the social-networking site under parental supervision. While this technology might actually result very helpful for parents to keep an eye on their kids in this ever-evolving environment, the history of Facebook controversies raises a big question mark with regards to children’s online privacy and security.

Let’s have a look at some potential risks deriving from Facebook’s controversial (yet, another!) intention:

  • 1. Facebook tracks user visits to any page, even after they log out, and share information about users with its partners. Do you want your kid’s online behaviour to be tracked?
  • 2. Child predators are already some of the greatest security threats for kids on social networks. Giving formal access to kids under 13 to the biggest social network, allowing them to post personal information such as age, likes, dislikes etc., would just make it easier for predators to find them.
  • 3. Kids can easily fall for Facebook scams, for example clicking on a link that promotes a funny video, but that, in reality leads to a malicious/phishing site. Formalizing their presence on Facebook would surely increase the incidence of Facebook scams targeting them.
  • 4. Also, formalizing young children’s presence on Facebook would trigger an explosion of ads targeting them. As a consequence, their want for things they can’t or shouldn’t be allowed to have would increase, without a doubt. Question is: do you want your kids to be exposed to targeted advertising?

Everybody's on Facebook. True. But with kids under 13 using it, things are tricky

The concerns mentioned above make a strong case for parents to think twice before allowing their underage kids to get on the popular social network. Even if they plan to impose strong parental controls and security rules, cybercrooks and advertisers will always find a way to exploit the more vulnerable.

If you do want your kid to make the most of their online experience, it’s best you get your own set of security measures in place:

  • install parental controls and an effective security product on your kid’s PC;
  • regularly check the Privacy Policy of the networks you and your kids access on a regular basis;
  • stay informed about online threats targeting social networks. For more background information on the matter, you can check out this security article from BullGuard.

What do you think about Facebook’s future plans? How do you think they’ll affect the current online social environment?