Why Kids Under 13 Should Be Allowed On Facebook

[twitter]The only reason Facebook bars those under 13 from joining the website is because of advertising rules.

It’s not an arbitrary number; it has to do with the sharing of information that Facebook collects from its users. Facebook isn’t in the friending business, it’s in the information business. And every second of every day our information on Facebook is bought and sold.

Facebook’s limit comes from the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which became Federal Law in America in 1998. They just take that age and apply it across the world, except in Spain (where the age limit is 14).

The U.K., for example, doesn’t have any regulations against info sharing on children. The U.K. information commissioner said that it is around the age of 12 when a child can understand the risks of handing over personal data, but Facebook just sticks with 13 across the board.

Last spring, Mark Zuckerberg admitted he was looking into allowing kids on Facebook.

“That will be a fight we take on at some point,” he said. “My philosophy is that for education, you need to start at a really, really young age.”

This week that notion came closer to reality when The Wall Street Journal reported Facebook “is developing technology that would allow children younger than 13-years-old to use the social-networking site under parental supervision.”

But who are we kidding? The kids under 13 are already on Facebook (about 7.5 million of them). They’ve been doing it with or without parental supervision for years.

Carolyn Castiglia wrote a piece on Strollerderby this week alleging “you shouldn’t have a hard time preventing your child from signing up for an account if you don’t want them to have one.

Think again, Carolyn.

Sarah Palin preached abstinence to America and ended up with a grandson, courtesy of her unwed teen daughter Bristol.

If you think a kid isn’t going to join Facebook “because you said so,” you are sadly mistaken.

If your kids are going to be on Facebook or you’ve got a minor in your care that wants to social network — and this applies whether they’re over or under the 13 age limit —  there are 3 rules to follow:

1. Require Your Child To Be Friends With You
anytime they friend or post, you’ll see it on your stream

2. You Need To Know the Password
you can monitor friend activity

3. Notifications of Account Activity are sent to your Email
another way to make sure you can stay in the loop

IF they want to be on Facebook and you think they’re ready then follow the rules and go for it. There are many 11-year-olds who can handle it, and then there are many 20-year-olds who can’t.

It is better to be involved in the process than put up a wall and worsen the situation. The moment your child wants to go online, you need to have an open and honest discussion about it.

You need to ask them why — chances are because their best friend is online and they want to be, too.

Resist the urge to be your mother by doing the ‘if Mary-Anne wanted to jump off a bridge would you?‘ routine and just be thankful that all they want to do is get on Facebook.

They could want a tongue ring. Or a tattoo.

The Facebook conversation is a good step to opening the lines of communication between you and your child. It’s a chance to show that you trust them and that you want to share your web-savvy experience with them on how to be a smarter web user.

Have the talk with your kids about Facebook and set up those 3 rules above. Because if you don’t have that talk, then … guess what? They’re going to do it anyway (just ask Sarah Palin).

They’ll use a computer at school. They’ll use their phone. They’ll go to a friend’s place and it will be under an account that you won’t know.

You’ll think everything is fine and they’ll be under an alias doing all sorts of things that you can’t moderate. Kids aren’t equipped with the Bullshit Detector to know what’s right and what’s wrong.

If you can walk them through the online world holding their hand, they can benefit from your experience and become a more savvy user, provided they have boundaries to prevent rookie mistakes.

Education trumps abstinence. Every time.

BTW, my opinion and advice counts for a whole lot of nothing on this issue. Facebook’s rules are Facebook’s rules. If someone on the site is found to be under the age of 13, Facebook will delete the profile immediately.

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