Should Facebook allow kids under 13 to sign up? That isn’t a real question.

by Jason Finkelstein- June 15, 2012 • 4:54 pm

Over the past few weeks, there’s been a lot of buzz about how Facebook is considering allowing children under the age of 13 to sign up (right now, officially, you have to be at least 13 to use the site).

News organizations surveyed parents, brought in parenting experts and even roped in so-called “internet researcher” Sherry Turkle to pontificate on the dangers of exposing young children to social networks. The general gist of the discussion is that letting kids under 13 on Facebook is a terrible idea and that Facebook has nefarious reasons for wanting them to sign up.

They’re all wrong.

I don’t mean to say I don’t have reservations about letting young kids sign up for Facebook. Allowing kids to fork over all their private information to a corporation before they’re old enough to stay home alone seems a little weird. However, the fact is tons of kids under 13 are already on Facebook, and their parents know about it, too.

Over 1/3 of minors that use Facebook are under 13. Consumer reports found that of those kids, 95% of their parents know they’re using the service even though they’re underage. Not only that, but 68% of those parents said they actually helped their underage kid create their Facebook account.

Young kids are already on Facebook. The question of whether we should allow them sign up is irrelevant.

Why Facebook’s Plan is Good

Facebook plans to create a special version of their website for younger kids. This “kid version” of Facebook will give parents more control over how their kids share information and let them dig into what they’re doing online.

Since most parents already allow their young kids on Facebook, having a kid version just makes sense. Right now, it’s pretty easy for kids to conceal what they’re doing on Facebook from their parents. Even if you’re friend with your kids, they can still put you in a group that will prevent you from seeing what they’re up to. The kid version of Facebook makes sure that parents have the tools they need for guiding their youngsters as they embark on their first social networking experience.

Since it’s so easy for young kids to get on Facebook (it’s as simple as filling in a fake age on a form), kids under 13 will continue to sign up regardless of whether Facebook officially allows it. A kid version of Facebook simply acknowledges what’s already happening and arms parents with the tools they need to make sure their kids are being safe.

What do you think? Should there be a kid version of Facebook?

Image via crimfants.

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