Technically, if you're younger than 13, you can't join Facebook. But at least 7.5 million of Facebook's 900 million+ members, and as many as 38 percent of young users, are 12 and under — they just lie about their age. Facebook is now looking at ways to bring those mendacious tweens into the light, according to The Wall Street Journal. A new offering would link the child's account to the parent's, letting mom or dad screen all friend requests and exercise other control over the "Baby Facebook" account. It would also allow Facebook to "tap a new pool of users for revenue," The Journal notes, as well as "inflame privacy concerns." Would opening the Facebook floodgates to tots be a bad idea, or just a nod to reality?
Better Baby Facebook than unchecked baby Facebookers: Not only is it "easy enough for younger kids to lie their way onto the social network," says Mario Aguilar at Gizmodo, but oftentimes parents also help them fib. So while the idea of kids talking to strangers and seeing God knows what on Facebook "creeps people out," this is "exactly why the [new] technology makes sense." If the under-13 set are going to use the social network regardless, "they might as well be supervised."
"Report: Facebook wants to let in kids under 13"
Parents don't have time to police Facebook: Parental supervision "sounds great in theory," but in practice it's a "no-good, horrible idea," says Lauren Ashburn at The Daily Beast. What real-life parent has time to look "over their kids' shoulders every time they open the laptop," much less use their smartphone? And in the age of cyber-bullying, child porn, and "shady characters everywhere," do we really want to put "these trusting souls in harm's way?" I get that Mark Zuckerberg needs new revenue streams, but "the preadolescent market isn't one where he needs to be fishing."
"Facebook aims low, may allow the under-13 crowd to sign up"
This can be a win-win, if done right: Based on the amount of help underage kids get to join, lots of parents don't care if their kids are on Facebook, says Larry Magid at The Huffington Post. Instead of encouraging kids to lie, parents should have the right to help junior sign up legitimately — as long as Facebook sets up its new service "carefully and thoughtfully with extra precautions." That means no ads and no data-mining. Under those conditions, kids get to join the fun, Facebook hooks in future customers, and parents aren't blessing dishonesty.
"Letting children under 13 on Facebook could make them safer"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Russia's new air force is a mystery
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- The secret to handling pressure like astronauts, Navy SEALs, and samurai
- Why you should stop believing in evolution
- Your literary playlist: A guide to the music of Haruki Murakami
- When it comes to ISIS, our Congress is full of cowards
- How I became a borderline hoarder
- 11 scientific studies that will restore your faith in humanity
- How Hillary Clinton's 'smart power' turned Libya into a dumpster fire
Subscribe to the Week