Facebook mulls under-13 access

2012-06-04 19:33

Washington - Facebook is experimenting with methods of opening up the social networking site to children younger than 13, the current cut-off age for joining the website, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

Such a move would be controversial, as many parents of older children already worry about the possibility for social and criminal problems on Facebook. There are also questions of whether children under 13 are equipped to know which data is advisable for sharing online.

However, the tests - none of which have been made publicly available - might be necessary for Facebook, the Wall Street Journal reported, as so many children already log on to the website by lying about their age, putting Facebook in potential legal jeopardy due to US laws that require companies to verify parental confirmation before collecting data from children.

The plans focus on ways to incorporate parental permission into any logon by a minor, from linking a child's account to that of a parent or by allowing parents control over what features children use while on Facebook.

The newspaper noted that opening up Facebook to younger children would significantly boost its potential number of users, key to Facebook's revenue stream.

No concrete plans

"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," Facebook stated to the Wall Street Journal in response to questions.

"We are in continuous dialogue with stakeholders, regulators and other policy makers about how best to help parents keep their kids safe in an evolving online environment."

No other comments were available on the company's website.

The newspaper noted that Facebook routinely tests technology that is never put into use. It reported no concrete plans to release the technology.

Facebook is in the crosshairs of multiple critics. Privacy concerns have prompted it to submit itself to regular audits by US officials. There are also concerns about the company's profitability, after a recent initial public offering saw the share price rapidly fall.

The company derives significant revenue from hosting online gaming sites, like Zynga. Such games would likely appeal to many children, meaning allowing them to access Facebook could clear up worries about its business model.

But others worried about the direct effect of a site like Facebook on young children, especially when there have already been reports of cyber bullying incidents among older children already allowed to use Facebook.


Other incidents with older children have centred on party invitations accidentally circulating wildly, resulting in hundreds of strangers showing up at parties at private homes.

"We don't have the proper science and social research to evaluate the potential pros and cons that social media platforms are doing to teenagers," said James Styer, chief executive of Common Sense Media, a child-advocacy group based in San Francisco.

"The idea that you would go after this segment of the audience when there are concerns about the current audience is mind boggling."

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has said publicly in the past that he thinks children under 13 should be allowed to use Facebook.

"That will be a fight we take on at some point," Facebook quoted him as saying, citing older news reports.

  • brettcch - 2012-06-04 20:43

    WTF??!! So it can prop up its share price??!!

  • ntjeke.wilfred - 2012-06-04 22:00

    NO NO NO think again mark, last month in pretoria a 13year old raped by someone he met on social network. and i don't think my government will accept that.

      WitWolf - 2012-06-04 22:50

      @ntjeke.wilfred I quote "i don't think my government will accept that." Your government accepts white farmers being tortured and killed. YOUR government accepts black children being raped walking from school. If they did care they would start acting on these criminal behaviors. Why would you think they would care about social networking?

  • ntjeke.wilfred - 2012-06-04 22:04

    On the other hand i think its is good, Riley Freeman (8-9) already have my space and Facebook account and thats wassup

  • Sean - 2012-06-05 09:40

    Once again another idiot who obviously does not have children of his own. The parents are responsible for raising their kids and guiding them through life, this continues until the day you die. Blaming Facebook for the rape of that girl is ridiculous.... if you had put a bridge in front of her would she have jumped??? her parents should have monitored her cyber activities or blocked her activities if they had too, lots of software available to do this, but no it is simply a case of cry wolf after the fact.

  • LindiBleu - 2012-06-05 10:28

    my 13 yr old son doesnt even have a fone, because the ones worth having cause too many problems. eg. without a fone, he will not fone and try to negotiate his curfew, like his other friends. Is it not bad enough that our children are growing up too soon?

  • Preshen - 2012-06-06 08:59

    If I only had facebook when I was 13 I could of get laid

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