Parents of underage Facebookers should be reported, Principal says

Parents of underage Facebookers should be reported, Principal says

Summary: A British school principal believes the parents of underage Facebook users should be reported to child protection services.

TOPICS: Privacy

The issue of underage children creating profiles on social networking sites like Facebook and how to control it can be a problem for both privacy and security -- something one UK principal apparently believes should be taken further.

Sister site CNet reports that as there are so many underage children on Facebook -- signed up with or without parental consent -- one educator believes official, legal consequences for breaking the rules should be put in place.

The school principal of St. Whites School in the Forest of Dean, Paul Woodward, has reason to believe over half of the students in his school are on social networking sites including Facebook. However, the problem is that St. Whites School's attending students are between the ages of 4 and 11 -- far below Facebook's minimum age in relation to its Terms of Service.

Woodward, speaking to the Daily Mail, believes this issue is serious, and it may be something that official channels should become involved in:

"It's illegal for you to do this, you shouldn't be doing it for your child. You need to close down that account, or I might have to tell the safeguarding people that you are exposing your child to stuff that's not suitable."

The 'safeguarding people' are child-protection services, usually reserved for cases of abuse, domestic problems or suspicions of violence. Perhaps this could be considered a drastic move, but as online networks often contain material not suitable for children of a certain age, the logic is understandable. If parents facilitate their child's access to such networks, then perhaps they can be considered culpable.

However, it is not illegal for children under a certain age to end up on Facebook -- it is simply against its Terms of Service. Unless the creation of a Facebook account before a certain age is written into law, then such a move would probably be a waste of already stretched resources in understaffed and overworked governmental departments.

A survey completed earlier this year by company Minor Monitor indicated that while over 70 percent of parents were concerned with their child's activities on Facebook, 38 percent of all children on the social networking site are under 13 -- and 4 percent are under 6 years of age.

Facebook says it removes approximately 20,000 underage users daily, but it is also important to note that parents are creating profiles for their children. New parents -- you may want to remove that profile you created for your baby. (They probably won't appreciated their baby photos being online once they've grown anyway).

Attempting to prevent young children signing up for social media accounts, especially in a culture where people at a younger age have access to or own mobile devices, can be difficult. In an ideal world, trying to protect children from outside influences or danger that can be found online could be secured through official channels, but in reality, would be very difficult to enforce.

Image credit: Screenshot C.Osborne/Facebook


Topic: Privacy

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  • It's almost like...

    ...the Germans won the last war.
    Tony Burzio
  • Another form of bullying? isn't illegal, it's just against the terms and conditions of the service provider and the principle doesn't like it. So if you don't like what he is saying he will report you to the safeguarding people - is it me or isn't this just bullying using legal means?

    If going on Facebook is leaving children open to abuse - what about having uncles? Is he going to report anybody with an "uncle"? After all statistically most child abusers are known to the child - either a relative or a step parent - that is where most of these problems arise.
    • Clearly you have not considered the possibility that you're an idiot

      Or do you think that ignoring ToS is a helpful life skill to learn?

      I think you might also find that in a majority of cases, ToS are actually enforceable. Note in particular that Facebook states that they zap 20,000 odd accounts every day for breaching the age ToS.
      • helpful life skill...

        "ignoring ToS is a helpful life skill to learn"
        Yes, it is - it's a must. Otherwise people grow up not understanding difference between law and ToS, SLA, etc., etc.
      • TOS issue a tort, not a crime

        The TOS issue has no relation to what this principal. He is suggesting that the state should step in via CPS. His position seems to be that parents can't be trusted to supervise their children's social networking and believes that children should only do social networking in a state-approved, state-controlled environment.

        Facebook's policy is driven by COPPA, which imposes strict controls empowering parent to control the disclosure of private information. Facebook would rather not deal with the red tape. Facebook, as a private Web operator, exercised their prerogative to deny membership to underage minors. TOS violations are a private issue between Facebook and its members, not the state. Reporting violation to Facebook is well within the perogative of anyone who know that some one underage is on FB, Once it becomes a state issue, issues like freedom of speech, freedom of assembly/organization, and parental rights come into play
  • And this idiot... in charge of educating future generation?
    So many things wrong with his statement, i don't know where to start...
    How about this - if he find a way to enforce what he's proposing, i'll give him a cookie!
  • Yes, easy to get those credentials!

    How about making Facebook, etc, responsible when parents don't want their kids on? Who gave them the right to allow my kids on without my permission? Ooh, that'll mess up someone's P&L statement quickly... can't allow anything to disrupt Facebook profitability.

    How about the school taking responsibility for preventing the kids from hacking their school-issued netbooks and getting on Facebook.
  • Underage facebook users.

    I have absolutely no use for the rule prohibiting underage Facebook users. If a parent considers their child old enough to be online on Facebook, then Facebook shouldn't be concerned, just make the parents responsible for the underage user's conduct online. Frankly, the underage users I know are all very responsible users, and if they slip up, the are corrected quite quickly. Some 12 year olds are far more responsible than some 15 year olds. The calendar isn't the issue, conduct is the issue.
  • In United States it is illegal

    It is illegal in the US for a website to collect personally identifiable information for children under 13, so in the US, it is illegal. And seriously, it is not safe.
    • It is only Illegal for the Web site.

      It is only illegal for the Web site and only if they do not have procedures that place parents or other authorized adults in control. The law does not prevent children from signing up or being signed up by parents, nor is there a presumption that such a practice amounts to neglect or abuse.
  • Should Be Reported?

    Thee are so many educators - including Principals - that abuse children and violate the trust inherent in their positions that all should be reported. Then punished. Severely and immediately, with records published for all to see so that their transgressions foloow them to the end of time. Just as they would do with the children . . .
  • A stupid man trying to fight stupid parents with stupid tactics.

    You can't fight stupid with stupid!