Facebook Mulls Access for Young Children

Monday, 04 Jun 2012 03:36 PM

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Facebook, which currently restricts its user-base to individuals over the age of 13, has begun exploring technology that would allow children under 13 to access the social network under parental supervision, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Because many children under 13 currently access Facebook by lying about their age to obtain a profile, the potential rule change is being portrayed as the belated recognition of a long-occurring reality.

A decision by Facebook to publicly open the door to younger users could be fraught with both opportunity and controversy for the newly public company. On one hand, the promise of additional users — and additional revenue generation — is hard to ignore. Facebook currently claims 901 million users, and allowing children to create profiles may help edge that number toward a billion.

On the other hand, Facebook has already faced unwanted scrutiny of its privacy practices, with some concerned parties attacking the company’s policies on the privacy and confidentiality of user data. Opening the social network to a younger crowd could make concerns about privacy and confidentiality even more sensitive than they were previously.

Due to federal regulations, children who access the site would be forced to do so under the supervision of a parent or guardian, a requirement that could assuage the aforementioned concern about children’s privacy. Facebook is developing a system that would allow younger children to control their account information but would cede control of friend requests and app downloads to the parents.

In an email statement, the company acknowledged the ongoing discussion, saying, “Many recent reports have highlighted just how difficult it is to enforce age restrictions on the internet, especially when parents want their children to access online content and services. We are in continuous dialogue […] about how best to help parents keep their kids safe in an evolving online environment.”

It is not yet clear when or whether Facebook will implement the rule change.

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