The Vancouver Sun reports that Facebook is seeking out methods to allow children under 13 to participate in the social network. The article acknowledges that though kids 13 and under are currently prohibited from registered use on the site due to federal law, there is already an estimated 7.5 million Facebook users out of the 900 million+ who fall right into this age range.
Evidently, enforcement of this ban is difficult—lying about your age is hardly challenging, and in some cases, parents are the ones to set up accounts for their children.
Apart from speculation regarding the connection between Facebook’s recent lack of success on Wall Street and their desire to increase audience and profit, this move to include under-13ers unquestionably raises key issues of privacy, online identity and the world we live in today.
Kids in this day and age are certainly no strangers to Facebook. I work teaching Grade 1′s and the other day, one of my students proudly told me she was famous. When I asked her why, she responded saying she was in her mom’s most recent Facebook profile picture, therefore making her “famous.” It’s clear the implications of social media are obvious to even children as young as 6—in the way that they allow us to network and connect with vast amounts of people. And it’s clear that even if the kids themselves aren’t yet on the site, information about them may already be in circulation—through the accounts (and profile pictures) of their parents, family and friends.
In an article from the Toronto Star, Dr. Joshua Gans is quoted saying, “It’s a form of social interaction. You’d no more want to shield your kid from Facebook than you would keep them out of the playground at school, or from talking to adults at the party. It’s like social training wheels. You have to be concerned about privacy, but that’s part of the skill here, when it is appropriate to share information and not to share information.”
Could legally letting little kids onto a social networking giant such as Facebook possibly be just taking premature measures of what is inevitable? Could it even be beneficial to their digital education? For example, if exposed at a young age, will they be more aware of the digital tattoo they are creating for themselves? Or could it just be detrimental to their growth as citizens in both the online and offline worlds? Will it further compromise their privacy and identity, commodities so preciously valued in our digital age?
Share your thoughts below.