This time last year, Mark Zuckerberg stirred up some controversy when he said the company was willing to fight for the right to allow children under the age of 13 to use Facebook. He later said his statement had been taken out of context, but now it looks like the social media mega-site is actually working on ways to legally allow pre-teens to join.
Children under the age of 13 are currently not allowed to join Facebook, though millions of them do simply by lying about their age.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Facebook is testing some ways for these children to get around the 13-and-over rule in a way that would allay concerns about kids’ privacy rights:
Mechanisms being tested include connecting children’s accounts to their parents’ and controls that would allow parents to decide whom their kids can “friend” and what applications they can use, people who have spoken with Facebook executives about the technology said. The under-13 features could enable Facebook and its partners to charge parents for games and other entertainment accessed by their children, the people said.
“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,” Facebook told WSJ.
Last year, our pals at Consumer Reports found that around 7.5 million kids under the age of 13 had signed up for Facebook accounts.
In a statement to Consumerist, Ioana Rusu, regulatory counsel for Consumers Union, responds to the report about Facebook’s efforts to allow children under the age of 13 on the site:
More than 5 million pre-teens have managed to sign up for Facebook accounts. While we are glad that Facebook is seeking to address this problem, the company needs to ensure that it creates a safe, child-friendly space on the site, one that is fundamentally different from the space available to teens and adults. Facebook has to provide parents with effective tools to monitor and supervise their pre-teens’ activities. Plus, it shouldn’t collect information about these children for ads and marketing. If Facebook is serious about making the site a safer place for kids, it has to deliver stronger controls and education aimed at parents, and they shouldn’t target kids with ads.
The Federal Trade Commission is nearing the end of its review of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which prohibits children under 13 from joining sites that collect personal information. It is expected that the result of this review will result in even stricter regulations for sites like Facebook, which has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying on the legislation.
Facebook Explores Giving Kids Access [WSJ.com]