Some of us may not realise that Facebook has an age restriction when going through the process of creating a profile. Part of that process asked for your age. If the user is under 13 years old, Facebook will not allow the profile to be created. The minimum age is 13.
Yet this is easily bypassed, by changing the year you were born to another year. The end result is that Facebook users are joining at a younger age. Often, parents are the guilty party, as they are creating profiles for the children!
Here are some issues to consider before approving a Facebook profile for a child 12 and under:
Facebook requires users to be over 13 years old. Consider how you feel about this and whether you want to condone your children "lying", even if you feel it is acceptable for them to have a Facebook account.
Kids are not surprisingly imitating their older siblings and other older Facebook users and the kind of posts they may write, the surveys they answer and the photos they upload of themselves are sometimes inappropriate for their age. We should understand that it is not "cute". Bragging about having a boyfriend or sharing highly emotional expressions in a public social network pushes them towards dealing with issues they are not ready for and do not need to be exposed to.
2. Posting Personal Information
Kids reveal a lot about their lives in Facebook - they do this via Wall posts on their own pages and those of friends, they vote for what they "like", join fan pages, they post videos and photos. A savvy user can easily piece together the multitude of information and make use of it. There is real risk involved in having too much personal information out there.
Kids often compete against one another in the number of ‘friends’ they can accumulate on their profile. In most cases, they don’t personally know these people. Simply telling kids to not "friend" strangers is NOT enough.
Kids may not be aware of or be concerned about the privacy settings. Facebook made significant changes whereby the default is to expose much of your PERSONAL information to public access.
A lot of information can be identified by browsing ‘friends’ profiles, as well as ‘friends of friends’ profiles.
4. Insults and Bullying
Kids are more likely to be insulting on Facebook. And everyone can see the insult and join in. This is very different than a fight between two children on the playground, where they cannot take it public and conduct surveys to see who is more liked...
5. Increased Computer Use
Facebook may increase overall computer use. Clear rules and limits should be established.
Ultimately, if you do allow your child to have a Facebook account, even if they are underage, you need to keep an eye on their use. The easiest way to do this is to have your own Facebook account and be your child's "friend". This way, you will see everything they write and upload and can even see what their "friends" are up to.
You can also consider installing filtering software to help you limit time online as well as to filter websites that a child should view.
To learn more about how to keep your child safe on the internet, take a look at our eBook. A downloadable FREE chapter is available here.