38% of kids on Facebook are under the minimum age of 13

38% of kids on Facebook are under the minimum age of 13

Summary: Everyone knows Facebook has a minimum age problem, but it's always surprising to see numbers that show just how serious the problem is. Millions of children are illegally using the social network.

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Over 38 percent of children with Facebook accounts are 12-years-old and under. Even more worryingly, 4 percent of children on Facebook are reported to be 6-years-old or younger, which translates to some 800,000 kindergarteners on Facebook.

The results come from a survey of 1,000 parents of children under 18-years-old who use Facebook, conducted by MinorMonitor. The company provides a free, web-based parental tool that gives parents a quick view into their child's Facebook use, including potential dangerous activities such as the friending of online predators, cyberbullying, violence, drug and alcohol use, as well as sexual references.

74 percent of parents are concerned about their children's safety on Facebook, with 56 percent worrying about sexual predators, a far larger percentage than 11 other "worry" categories. 41 percent of parents said they were concerned about cyberbullying through Facebook use, while 30 percent of parents believed their child already experienced cyberbullying.

Over 50 percent of parents currently monitor their children's Facebook activities by logging into their child's account, with or without their child's permission. 24 percent of parents feel they are monitoring their child on Facebook by friending them, an extremely ineffective way to get to the heart of real concerning activities. 17 percent admitted they just aren't monitoring their children at all.

"Some parents believe that 'friending' their child on Facebook is adequate to ensure safety," Mike Betron, VP and General Manager of MinorMonitor, said in a statement. "This simply provides a false sense of security as children are still able to engage in private conversations and post questionable material without their parents seeing this as a friend."

You can see more of the results in the following infographic:

MinorMonitor offered the following tips for parents:

  • Know children's passwords and other login information, and teach your children not to share their passwords or personal information.
  • Keep Facebook profiles set to private, and know Facebook's other built-in safety features.
  • Teach children about friending and that all requests from strangers should be declined.
  • Remind children that information posted online is public.

The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) mandates that websites that collect information about users aren't allowed to sign on anyone under the age of 13. As a result, Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities require users of the social network to be at least 13 years old (and even older, in some jurisdictions).

Last year it was estimated that 7.5 million Facebook users are below the minimum age. To make matters even more worrying, more than 5 million were 10-years-old or younger. Both those numbers have undoubtedly grown since.

For its part, Facebook says it's a very tough problem to solve. Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg meanwhile wants the minimum age limit removed

See also:

Topic: Social Enterprise

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years,
he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars
Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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4 comments
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  • Facebook is a very good thing for kids

    Perhaps 1 in a million kids have a safety issue with being online, but for the other 999,999, Facebook increases their engagement with friends and family members, gets them over social phobias, and teaches them how to type.

    Plus, nobody has more to share than kids - between school projects, youth sports, summer camps, and "firsts" in just about everything.

    The pros way outweigh the cons in getting young kids on social media. If people could stop worrying. Nobody ever got anywhere unless they took a risk. I'm willing to risk the 1 in a million for my kid so that he can grow up more social and intelligent than others. It is too bad the media scares away so many.
    brett18
  • parents

    Instead of fighting the loosing battle with children on facebook, facebook should make it easier for parents. For example, instead of encouraging kids to learn how to lie about their age, they should have a way that a parent can sign up with a child for a page - giving the parent and the child a separate password and access to the same page. And you could make any private messaging not available on children pages. Just eliminate that feature. Perhaps make a more attractive feature available on kids pages to offset it, so they will want to have a "children's" page. I have a lot of nieces that have pages and it worries me. I do not know if their parents monitor their pages or not. Then they can have a expiration date for turning 18. The children's page gives them the option to convert it over at that time. I am not a programmer, so this is harder than it seems. But it isn't like they don't have the time or the money to pursue this.
    miranda97415@...
  • Incorrect statement about COPPA

    COPPA does not categorically forbid websites from having members younger than 13. It does, however, provide fairly strict guidelines for how to obtain verifiable parental consent. It's a lot of work when you are dealing with a lot of children, but a form of the suggestion made by miranda97415 could be done to enable parents and their young children sign up for an account and provide Facebook with the verifiable consent of those parents.
    jagibbons
  • Bad math? And not surprised.

    The article is worded badly. It assumes there are 20 million children under 18 - and that's from the May 2011 statistics. So when it says 4% at 6 or under, they mean 4% of 20 million and not 845 million.
    Now any statistician knows the sample of 1000 users from 845 million actual users [or even 20 million with children] is so patherically small, you can't even consider the results to be accurate. Just by looking at it, I don't.
    Gisabun