Facebook for Five Year Olds?
Should children under age 13 be on Facebook? That question has the social media world talking this week, as Facebook begins a yearlong discussion on whether to expand the age limits for those who can sign up.
While there are understandable safety concerns in having children under 13 joining Facebook, there are also reasons many are advocating for the change. Facebook can in fact be a valuable tool for connecting classmates online, collaborating with other students on school projects, and keeping in touch with friends in other grades or schools. While these reasons are still more applicable to teenagers and college students, the reasons for getting on Facebook are becoming more broad and socially acceptable for the younger generation.
As you might expect, however, this still has parents wondering if the Facebook environment in general is safe enough for their pre-teen children to have access to. In preparation for the potential change, Facebook is already introducing new features to ease parents' minds, such as profile pages designed to be more private for young kids. One such feature is “connected accounts”, which allows parents to link their own Facebook account – if they have one – to a child’s account upon sign-up. This would create a safer atmosphere that allows the adult to have more control over what their child is posting, who they are adding as friends, photos they are tagged in, etc. The concept is similar to automatic privacy settings currently in place for those under 18, with visibility set at sign-up to “friends only”. Connected accounts aim to give parents peace of mind and keep children safe online while still allowing them to participate in the popular social network.
Young Facebookers are not necessarily a new concept, and a 2011 Consumer Reports survey showed that approximately 7.5 million children under 13 are already using Facebook but lying about their age to get around the age restrictions. So is Facebook considering lowering the age limit in order to tap into these additional users for monetary reasons? It’s no secret that the company’s stock has gone down (nearly 30%) since it went public on May 18th.
If Facebook relaxes its restriction on age, should there be physical changes to the site? Would you feel compelled to change the way you interact or filter your activity to be more age-appropriate if you knew there were young children watching? Let us know your thoughts!