Should Kids Under 13 Use Facebook?

Mark Zuckerberg reportedly wants to lower the minimum age requirement for acquiring a Facebook account. Right now, the minimum age for signing up on Facebook is 13 — a standard set by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act which doesn’t allow Web sites that gather data about users to sign on members under the age of 13. Facebook, of course, collects a whole slew of information about users, repeatedly frightening privacy advocates even on an adult level.

The problem is that children under 13 are already using Facebook. The June issue of Consumer Reports found that 7.5 million users Facebook users are below the required minimum age of 13. And get this: five million of them are ten or younger. These young Facebook users only have to lie about their age to set up a Facebook account, but then continue to provide information about themselves to Facebook. To help protect these kids — and Facebook — Facebook removes about 20,000 underage users per day.

In light of these numbers, it seems Zuckerberg feels he might as well give in to the monster he created and allow younger children to legally take part in Facebook by lowering the age. Lowering the age will allow Facebook to become more of an educational tool.

“In the future, software and technology will enable people to learn a lot from their fellow students,” Zuckerberg said. “My philosophy is that for education you need to start at a really, really young age.”

But how young is too young? And who is going to keep an eye on all these super-young kids as they embark unmoderated in the “Wild Wild West” that is social media? The good thing is that Consumer Reports found that one third of parents keep an eye on their underage children who use Facebook. Obviously, that means a majority of kids are going unsupervised, which is a scary prospect, especially in light of the types of bullying and harassment that often occur via social media and on Facebook. Is allowing children under 13 on Facebook really a good thing?

Let us know what you think in the comments!

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Kelly Clay, author of Blog Without Boundaries, is a freelance writer and lifestyle advisor.