Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg now thinks that children under the age of 13 should be allowed on Facebook. In a recent speech, he said that the company would take a lot of precautions to ensure that the young kids are safe and allowing them on the site would be a positive educational experience on them.
There are already around 7.5 million children under the age of 13 on Facebook, out of the total of 20 million minors who are active on the site. Although the site does not allow underage users, underage users can simply lie about their ages to get on the site. Facebook has said that it deletes about 20,000 underage profiles everyday. The data is from the Consumer Report's 2011 State of the Net Survey.
The survey shows that most of these under 13 users are rarely supervised. The same survey also found that 5 million users were under the age of 10. Facebook has had several security lapses and accusations of privacy violations which have affected millions of its users. Collecting data from children under the age of 13 or retaining it is illegal under the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
Supporters of Facebook say that since there are already so many under-13 year olds on Facebook, bringing them out in the open will be a good thing. Once Facebook knows who they are and what they are doing, it can protect them more efficiently. Its critics see this as a blatant attempt to exploit even younger children to sell advertising. There are safety concerns too regarding the young children, since to date Facebook has not displayed a stellar performance regarding protecting its users privacy.
The Consumer Report has some suggestions on what parents can do to protect their children. It says that parents should join their children's friend circle on Facebook. Parents should also delete their pre-teen's account or get Facebook to do it for them by using the ''report an underage child'' form.
The privacy controls available in Facebook can also be useful. Almost 20% of Facebook users do not use them. But these features are useful to prevent strangers from looking up the users' profile picture, friends list and activities, which are visible even outside Facebook.
Turning off Instant Personalization is another good way to get back more control of your account. Reducing the use of Facebook apps is the final suggestion that Consumer Report gives. It suggests that users should check the list of apps they have activated and decide what information those apps can access. This is because even though Facebook says that its does not share identifiable information with advertisers without the user's permission, when a user connects with an app or website, it still accesses the user's general information.