We here at Three Yards are, well, fans of Facebook (until recently, anyway) but the news this week coming out of Camp Zuckerberg is anything but exciting.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook is exploring new technologies and strategies that would allow children under the age of 13 to use the social networking service. The current age limit is set at 13, but studies have shown that at least 7.5 million children under the age of 13 were using the site, including more than five million under the age of 10, according to Consumer Reports.
Facebook has said these new technologies would involve linking kids’ accounts to their parents, and employing measures similar to parental controls on other media devices like TV remotes and Xbox usage. Because that works. The issues surrounding this idea include privacy concerns (because many children currently lie about their age to join the site, Facebook is in a precarious legal situation dealing with requesting personal information from children) and parents’ level of control of the service (ideas presented have been permissions of who to friend and what apps to use), but as we’ve shown in the last few Facebook articles, the main motivation is money. Facebook is trying to snap up the as-yet-untapped demographic of small children, whose parents they can charge to play games on Facebook.
Personally, I think little kids should stay the hell off Facebook and the Internet in general. Not for some noble ideal like “they should go out and play and be healthy and social” but that their spelling is awful, tHeY AlL TyPe lYkE dIs AnD iT mAkEs mE WaNt tO mUrDeR fAcZ. Posting things like comments or links on a site like Facebook is largely lost on 99% of the tween demographic, and they need to find out about bullying and social ostracism at school like every other generation has. Yes, online bullying is a terrible thing, but it’s by no means an epidemic. “Epidemic” implies a new, dangerous trend. Nerdy antisocial kids have been bullied at school since Laura Ingalls started her period out on the prairie. Facebook isn’t concerned about the rights or psychological well-being of the world’s children, they’re merely trying to exploit another revenue stream. It’s sickening.
That being said, we *are* (in theory, anyway) mildly journalistic about things here at Three Yards, so we went to some credentialed social media types to get their thoughts.
Jenn Cloud, 2012 Spokester for Young & Free St. Louis and social media extraordinaire, had this to say:
So the idea of Facebook opening up their service to kids younger than 13 initially made me bristle (as does just about everything they want to do…you think I’d be used to it by now…) but after actually reading up on it, I’m not so sure it’s actually the worst idea that’s ever happened, ever.
This isn’t even a thing that is ACTUALLY happening yet so put your weapons down! And the initial talks are along the lines of kids under 13 having a sort of…sidecar profile that attaches to a parents profile and everything they do gets filtered through the adult.
Tweens are of course already on Facebook en masse by simply lying about their age, many even with their parents’ consent. This format would allow kids and parents to work more closely together without anyone having to be dishonest.
I hate that the underlying meat of the matter for Facebook is YES MORE MINIONZ, but I also completely embrace the fact that we are now living in a very connected society and the rules of engagement have changed for all of us. It would serve kids well to finally be TAUGHT how to safely navigate these waters in a sort of wading pool with their water wings on rather than flop around aimlessly in the like many of us did simply being unleashed on the web when we were tweens.
Kesha Brown of The Uncommon Chick and XD Website Solutions went in the opposite direction:
A resounding NO! Facebook is a medium for adults now and with the things I see people posting and sharing, no child should be privy to that stuff.
Yes, Facebook has games but not necessarily for a child. And aren’t there enough kid-friendly games on consoles today? They don’t need Facebook for that. Time lost on Facebook is a complete waste for adults let alone a child who needs to be doing homework, outside playing, learning how to get along, and enjoying their life as a child. Social networks will always be around. a 10 year old can get in on a ‘Facebook-like’ network in 8 years!
What do you think? Is Facebook trying to safeguard the rights of children growing up in an increasingly-digitally-connected world, or are Zuckerberg and Co. merely trying to create the Matrix?