More than 5 million children aged 10 and under, well below Facebook’s minimum age of 13, use the service, Consumer Reports has found in its 2011 State of the Net Survey.
More Than One Third Of Minors Using Facebook Illegally
The report found that at least 7.5 million children—more than one-third of the 20 million minors who actively used Facebook in the past year—were under 13 and violated the site’s terms, which prohibit kids that young from joining.
From Consumer Reports:
Our survey unearthed several disturbing findings about children and Facebook:
• Of the 20 million minors who actively used Facebook in the past year, 7.5 million—or more than one-third—were younger than 13 and not supposed to be able to use the site.
• Among young users, more than 5 million were 10 and under, and their accounts were largely unsupervised by their parents.
• One million children were harassed, threatened, or subjected to other forms of cyberbullying on the site in the past year.
Clearly, using Facebook presents children and their friends and families with safety, security, and privacy risks.
Easy For Preteens To Lie About Their Age
Facebook screens applicants by asking for their birth date and rejecting those too young. But it’s easy for preteens to slip through by lying about their birth date.
More from Consumer Reports:
Children under 13 who post personal information on Facebook that can be publicly viewed defeat protections afforded by the Federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA). That act prohibits sites from knowingly disclosing children’s personally identifiable information. “We are very concerned about kids eliding around COPPA’s restrictions,” Federal Trade Commission chair Jon Leibowitz told us.
So Where Are Mom And Dad?
it seems that parents of kids 10 and younger are not too concerned. According to Consumer Reports, only 18 percent made their child a Facebook friend, which is the best way to monitor a child. By comparison, 62 percent of parents of 13- to 14-year-olds friended their child.
Do parents of young kids think they are less likely to take risks? Or are they unaware that their children are on Facebook?
Parents need to monitor their children closely and let them know that it is illegal for them to be on Facebook under age 13. And if their over-13-year-olds are on Facebook, parents need to be on there too, periodically reading their wall, news feeds and inbox, to make sure they are using Facebook responsibly, and to help keep them safe.
My son is now in his twenties, and I guess I’m very glad Facebook wasn’t around when he was growing up.
Photo Credit: iStock
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