Should children under 13 be allowed to use Facebook as CEO Zuckerberg claims?
CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg recently announced during the NewSchools education summit in California that children under the age of 13 should be allowed to use Facebook. Zuckerberg has long been an advocator of educational reform and he contends that Facebook could be the perfect platform for encouraging study in the future:
“Education is clearly the biggest thing that will drive how the economy improves over the long term […] In the future, software and technology will enable people to learn a lot from their fellow students.”
Zuckerberg contends that until the restrictions implemented by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) (which aim to prevent children under the age of 13 accessing any websites which collects information on them) are lifted, it is hard to ascertain exactly how Facebook can be utilised for educational purposes.
However, it is unlikely that parents will support Zuckerberg’s intentions to open up the network to preteens. Potential concerns include:
- Grooming – Facebook has long been seen as a branch of opportunity for paedophiles. The collecting of “friends” could see a child accepting anyone on to their friends list!
- Cyber bullying – Facebook is regularly reported as a site of online harrying. The network makes it easier for a bully to encourage the involvement of their peers with the intention of making their actions appear less threatening.
- Social pressure – Several psychologists have already written thesis regarding a link between Facebook and depression. Ones social worth becomes clear and feelings of exclusion can occur. If a child were to see photographs from birthday parties and other social events which they did not receive an invite to, this could be emotionally devastating.
- The stripping of innocence – Children could end up growing up faster quicker than they would otherwise. (“If I do A or B, then I will be more popular and have more Facebook friends.”) “In a relationship” statuses would be most worrying amongst 11 year olds!
- Obesity – Sitting in front of a PC screen for hours on end will do little good for the already expanding waistlines of the nation’s children!
There is also concern that children could cause financial worries for their parents by illegitimately purchasing additional credits for Facebook games such as Mafia Wars, Happy Island and Jewel Puzzle. Many parents leave their PayPal accounts permanently logged in and connected to their many debit and credit cards on their home computers for ease and besides this, in current times many young children are provided with mobile phones. Facebook Credit charges can be made directly to these – bad news for the parents footing the bill!
Whilst education is no doubt imperative and having a solid set of IT skills from a young age will prove beneficial in this increasingly technology led world, Zuckerberg claiming that Facebook will be involved – let alone at the forefront – of tech led education is somewhat ridiculous. If Facebook already struggles to protect the information and privacy of its adult users then what hope does it have of convincing protective parents that the website can offer the same for their children? An extremely slim chance is the answer to that!
Facebook discourse already dominates the daily lives of most of us and parents should make it their duty to shield their children from the influence and effects of the social network for as long as possible. When I was 10, I was busy dressing up Barbie for a tough stint of shopping in the mall, not updating my Facebook status!
If “Zuckerberk” does continue to push for a change to COPPA’s policy I really hope that parents take a stand so that his illogical request never sees the light of day.
About the Author: Kitty Jane Turner is a part time social media specialist who works in the industry of credit cards by day. She thinks it is preposterous that anyone below the age of 13 would claim that they need Facebook!