This whole fiasco reminds me of the rides at an amusement park where kids would stand on their tippy toes and wear big hats in order to be able to get onto a ride. The amusement park says they’re not allowed onto the ride for safety reasons. The children make it in anyway.
The exact same scenario is playing out with Facebook right now. According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook is “developing technology” that would allow children 12 years of age and younger to poke, post, and friend with parental supervision. The real point is, though, that kids of these ages are already on Facebook. It’s a well-known fact that many users are under the minimum age requirement. All they have to do is have an e-mail account and falsify their birth year. It’s the modern era’s version of standing on your tippy toes and wearing a big hat.
According to the Wall Street Journal, “mechanisms being tested [by Facebook] include connecting children’s accounts to their parents’ and controls that would allow parents to decide whom their kids can “friend” and what applications they can use.”
So what are the benefits of letting younger users into Facebook? What’s the motivation behind this move? I’ve come up with a few ideas and would hope you can share yours as well down in the comments. Without further ado, here are the pros and cons of letting anyone under the age of 13 into Facebook:
- They’ll have parental supervision. Parents will have a more formalized role in their children’s online activity.
- Teachers will be able to connect with students in elementary school
- This will serve as ‘training wheels’ for younger users who may not be ready to jump into the deep end of social media just yet
- Younger users can come out of hiding and stop using accounts with fake names to avoid being found out by parents, etc. (yep, that happens… quite a lot)
- Younger users will be targeted by advertisers just like the rest of us
- Younger users may not understand the result of their online actions until it’s too late
- Cyber-bullying could be more prevalent
- The move smacks of Facebook wanting to keep their user base numbers growing due to their IPO and intense pressure for growth and revenue
What do you think? Should Facebook lift the ban on allowing anyone under the age of 13 onto the social network? What do you think will actually happen? Weigh in down in the comments or on the Edudemic Facebook Page!