Facebook May Soon Let Kids Under 13 Join The Party

    June 4, 2012
    Josh Wolford
    Comments are off for this post.

Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities section 4, article 5 clearly states that “You will not use Facebook if you are under 13.” But according to sources quoted by the Wall Street Journal, that may soon be changing.

Apparently, Facebook is in the process of developing new technology that would make way for kids under the age of thirteen to become members of the network. Of course, that technology would be focused on the safety and privacy of the children and would most likely link their accounts to their parents’ accounts. According to the sources, the “under-13” feature would allow parents to control who their child becomes friends with, and well as what apps and game purchases they utilize.

Of course, even if Facebook implements a new feature like this, it’s not like it will mark the first wave of sub-13-year-olds participating in the social network. Despite the clear ban of youngsters in Facebook’s Terms of Service, kids under the age of 13 have been using the service for quite some time. Some recent studies say that up to 38% of the kids on Facebook are under the official age requirement. Other reports have put the hard number at 7.5 million under-13 kids on the site.

How do these children do it? Well, they lie, and it’s that simple. Facebook’s age verification systems simply takes you on your word – as does every online age verification system. It’s not like beer websites and YouPorn are running background checks on browsers. The kids are getting in, but Facebook reportedly works pretty hard to remove underage accounts – 20,000 a day according to one report.

The underage account problem is an old and persistent one for Facebook, as it’s nearly impossible to truly enforce their policy. With a move like this, Facebook would be taking the “it’s going to happen anyway” approach, enlisting parents to guide their children through what, by now, seems like an inevitable process.

According to one UK Member of Parliament, it’s already happening. Tim Loughton made news back in April when he said that there was a rising trend of parents helping their underage kids navigate the Facebook minefield. He took a decidedly negative position on the practice, but I (and others, obviously) asked whether or not parents should shepherd their kids through the inevitable? There are 900+ million people on Facebook, and think about what a 12-year-old is – a middle schooler in many cases. Yeah, it’s safe to say that they are going to find their way on Facebook – with or without parental guidance.

So, why fight it, some would argue.

Then again, even with the watchful eye of parents, Facebook can be a rough landscape for young kids. Bullying, sexual predation, adult content – it’s all out there and can easily reach kids. Cyberbullying is hard enough to deal with if you’re 13 or even 16, but much worse if you’re 8 or 9. It’s a tricky debate, no doubt.

We’ve reached out to Facebook for comment and will update this accordingly.

UPDATE: We’ve heard back from a Facebook spokesman:

Many recent reports have highlighted just how difficult it is to enforce age restrictions on the Internet, especially when parents want their children to access online content and services. We are in continuous dialogue with stakeholders, regulators and other policymakers about how best to help parents keep their kids safe in an evolving online environment.

  • Grandma5

    NO WAY should younger kids be allowed to join! They don’t have sound-enough reasoning what should or should not be posted

  • http://www.GoMcGruff.com/ McGruff SafeGuard

    If you are looking for full parental control that monitors & controls everything kids do online (including Facebook) , as well as blocks inappropriate websites, and does linguistic analysis to watch out for dangerous behavior –
    such as internet predators or cyberbullys –
    check out McGruff SafeGuard’s Parental Control system:

    You may remember McGruff “The Crime Dog” – Take A Bite Out of Crime – from your own childhood

    For FREE iPad/iPhone parental control, check out http://www.GoMcGruff.com/browser

  • ASimone

    I think that Facebook is realizing that the adults are leaving the site in droves due, in part, to the recent IPO issues so they’re actively reaching out to a demographic that’s been unofficially on the site for some time. It’s all about money and the need to keep their site relevant.

  • http://facebook joe

    how can they protect children when they cannot keep others things private

    • http://facebook joe

      besides there are way too many scammers that are registered on facebook with different sites linked to their accounts here on facebook

  • pisseddad1

    well i can tell you this my 9 year old daughter has had a god damn facebook for 2 years now thanks to her fucking idiot mother all they did was lie on her fuck birthdate i have contacted facebook for fraudulant profile but nothing fuck you zuck

  • rabid

    NO WAY should grandmas be allowed to join!

    Seriously though, my kids have been on since they were 10, and are now 13, so I updated their age without too much issue.

    They were under strict rules. I wish Facebook had an “under 13” setting. It doesn’t make sense not to, especially if parents want them set up.

    Abstinence-only doesn’t work. Practice safe text.

  • http://www.epalmspringsrealestate.com Abraham Baghbodorian

    Facebook is now pretending they do not have any preteens on Facebook? I know several who have joined since they were 8 yrs old and some even play Poker … If it wasn’t for preteens , Facebook would have had much less than the 100s of millions they boast about.

  • Macski

    I refused my daughter access to FB as she is underage. I have always encouraged my kids to respect the T&C. Most of her classmates have an FB account, so she’s a bit upset. I find it amazing that parents encourage their children to lie and be dishonest. Is that what education is all about?

    As for preventing kids lying about their age without parental consent, a simple way of checking is a micro-payment with a credit card as most minors do not have one. This is not a new idea and is used by several sites.