Something about this recent controversy has really peaked my interest:
The Wall Street Journal reports that Facebook is testing technology that would let kids under 13 in on the social action. […] Right now, if you're under 13, you can't use Facebook. The trouble is that it's easy enough for younger kids to lie their way onto the social network. According to the WSJ, Facebook hopes the new tech would help the company deal with difficulties in enforcing age restrictions online:Call me a skeptic, but it seems as if Facebook is merely trying to find a way to justify eliminating (or loosening) any age restrictions, to maximize their advertisement revenue. However, this story presents an interesting point about the cluelessness of many adults.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. The under-13 features could enable Facebook and its partners to charge parents for games and other entertainment assessed by their children, the people said.
The U.S. legal drinking age is 21. Should Facebook have the same requirement?
Plenty of people light-heartedly say the 900-million-person social network is "addictive," since so many of us spend hours a day checking up on what our Facebook friends are doing.
But following a Monday story about whether Facebook should allow children younger than 13 to join the site - since stats show they're on Facebook anyway and Facebook reportedly is considering implementing parental controls that could allow it to lower the minimum age - some of CNN's commenters fired back, saying that the minimum age should not be lowered.
In fact, they said, it should be raised.
[…] There were plenty of […] people who express their views on 11-year-olds on Facebook by capitalizing the word "NO" and employing multiple exclamation points. But several people who described themselves as parents wrote in to say their under-13 kids are on Facebook and that, with their supervision, everything works out just fine.This article prompted me to go back and check when I first registered for Facebook. I discovered that I did it on January 18, 2007 – when I was thirteen years old. However, many of my friends had started their accounts prior to turning thirteen. In fact, my farmer friend's annoying young cousins (12 and 10, if not younger) have both added me on Facebook. If the current age restrictions do not work, why would a laughable 8 year increase be any more enforceable?* (Also, why 21? Are legal adults incapable of maintaining an online profile?)
As the Internet becomes increasingly integrated into our lives, parents will likely find ways to balance their child's freedom with a need for online safety, but I do think there's a good argument against creeping on your own child. A few months ago, I wrote this:
I would also make the case that children should have an outlet to express themselves with their friends, without their parents creeping over their shoulders. For example, I remember coming out of the closet on Facebook long before I accepted my parent's friend request.Furthermore, providing children with unfettered access to the internet might also enable them to access which might be otherwise unavailable: information about abuse, depression, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity minorities, or other topics that they might feel uncomfortable talking to a parent about. This is not to say that the internet is always the best resource, but it can literally save lives.
* Another question: what if the parents don't have Facebook accounts?