Published by Leyre Velasco, 8th June 2012

Some time ago we called your attention to the fact that many children under 13 lied on social networks such as Facebook in order to be able to sign up (see post Parents help their children to lie to get on Facebook). The minimum age set to connect their Facebook social network is 13 – this age is set based on U.S. federal laws to protect online privacy of children. However, a report by Microsoft says that up to 36% knew that their children had registered on Facebook before the age of 13. Moreover, many parents helped their children during the registration process.

Facebook under 13s
Facebook under 13s

It is known that Facebook, like other social networks, has been the subject of criticism in regard to the privacy policy. Furthermore, it is clear that it is very easy to register by entering false data.

The pressure on the company to avoid children lying to get an account has increased over the last year. For this reason, Facebook is developing a technology by which children under 13 can use the social network under parental supervision. Thus, the children’s accounts would be connected with the parents’ accounts and they will be the ones deciding who they can add as friends as well as which applications they can download.

I think this is a great initiative to formalize the presence of children who, in a clandestine way, are already in the network. Apparently, Facebook does not rule out charging for certain games and applications in this controlled environment. You can read the full information in the BBC article Facebook ‘may soon allow’ under-13s to join the site

In my opinion, anything that strengthens the security controls in the network is positive, yet charging for a service aimed at protecting children when this should be the default option is not quite right.

These controls should be implemented by default in the systems of registration of any social network. Moreover, I think it would be preferable for all the social networks of greatest impact to come together to design the patterns and mechanisms and that they all follow the same pattern of security. Joining forces to protect children and together they make it more difficult to cyber-criminals.

But I fear, often particular interests of each company take precedence over common sense and general interest. It seems that it is preferable to ignore these issues so to attract more and more users.

And you, what do you think?