Parents of underage Facebookers should be reported, Principal says

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

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