Facebook debates under-13 accounts?

Summary:According to reports, Facebook is experimenting with ways to allow children under 13 to legally use the social network.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook may be taking the initiative in solving an issue that has plagued the company, parents and schools alike -- children under 13 years of age creating Facebook accounts.

Facebook. Everyone's on it. Even if having an account when you're that young is against Facebook's Terms of Service, it doesn't deter the little ones from setting themselves up. (Let's not take into account the adoring parents who setup pages for their newborns in the hope others will approve their choice of biological partner and the result.) So, what can be done?

Short of cutting children off from the Internet and keeping tabs on any mobile device they have access to, very little. That's where Facebook itself has intervened.

The report suggests that children under 13 may be able to legally have an account in the future -- but only under their parents' watchful eyes and with their supervision and consent.

To this end, the social network is developing new technology which would tie a parental account with their child's -- so the adult would in theory maintain control over any social networking activity.

This would include who the child can add as a friend and what Facebook applications are accessible. Sources also suggested to the Wall Street Journal that by using this model, Facebook may in the future be able to charge parents for any "games and other entertainment accessed by their children".

Currently, children under 13 are banned from the site -- but this is difficult to enforce. You only need to change the date of birth when you sign up, and in some cases, parents help their children create an account, probably reasoning that knowing what your child is up to is a better option than having them on the site in secret.

However, this places Facebook in a difficult position. Federal laws require websites to obtain parental consent before collecting information from minors -- but for a global network like Facebook, this isn't necessarily the easiest problem to solve.

Considering Facebook's history with privacy, this latest development will require the social networking giant to tread very carefully.

Image credit: Franco Bouly

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Topics: Social Enterprise

About

Charlie Osborne, a medical anthropologist who studied at the University of Kent, UK, is a journalist, freelance photographer and former teacher. She has spent years travelling and working across Europe and the Middle East as a teacher, and has been involved in the running of businesses ranging from media and events to B2B sales. Charli... Full Bio

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