In the world of Facebook, the social network claims 500 million users. Pretty impressive to say the least. While this stat isn’t so alarming, there is one that should cause us (as youth workers and parents) to pay better attention: 3.6 million of Facebook’s 153 million monthly visitors in the U.S. are under 12.
With a policy that states “you must be at least 13 to sign-up”, one has to wonder then how do Tweens attain a Facebook account. It’s a no-brainer that they’re lying about their age. That’s not what I’m trying to figure out here. The question isn’t so much how they’re getting on, but why are they. Many parents are unaware that their 12-and-under child has a Facebook profile. Although, many are aware, and in fact have allowed their child to lie about their age just so they could “hang-out” with friends online. For me, this raises two big concerns. First, why aren’t more parents aware of their children’s online use and activity? The net isn’t that safe of a place to allow your kids to roam around freely. Second, why are parents encouraging their kids to lie – even if it’s just a small-white-lie?
So now, we have a statistic called “underage social networking site users.” So, kids lie about their real age. A good guess is that many parents allow their children to “make believe” they are older.
One web site proposed the parent’s reasoning is because they would rather have their kids sign in an older age than have the child sign up behind their backs. Let’s teach our kids the virtue of lying in front of our parents. Another argument is that some kids mature faster than others. A parent should decide if their kids are old enough to expose themselves to FB.
Those who side with my view have raised the line of reasoning that kids who join social networks may expose them to real-life threats or inappropriate exposure to unethical means. They may not be prepared for those corrupted spots, but supporters say parents suggested there is no legal age limit on using the Internet. We must remember, the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act approved in 1998 mandated parental consent from children younger than 13 for members of websites that collect information from users. Hence, it falls in the parent’s domain.
Heck, there are plenty of social networking sites for kids without having to lie about their age. Togetherville.com, which was bought out by Disney, is a fine example.
All Headline News reports that FB’s chief security office tries to catch underage users, verifying a young member’s real age is both tricky and quite difficult task. Still, the FB officer said the portal has blocked new registrations or deleted accounts daily of underage users …. The popularity of social networking sites will continue to grow as will the underage social network users.
Interesting stuff. Pressing questions concerning Tweens, parent responsibility, Facebook, and lying. What are your thoughts?
As parents, what is your take on the whole “under-age” Facebooking? How do you feel about Facebook in general?
As youth workers, what is your take on the article? Do we encourage Tweens (and even teens) to access Facebook behind their parents – for the sake of doing “online-ministry”? How do we deal with the situation?
For parents who are interested, here is a FREE “Parent Guide to Facebook” (PDF) that I highly recommend every parent downloading and reading.
Here’s another article/post I wrote concerning teens and their online use.