12-Year-Olds Flocking to Facebook — Does Underage Social Networking Matter?

We know that the popularity of social networking sites is growing. I mean, heck, my Twitter followers grow steadily by the hour. An interesting point to this growth is that the number of young people, specifically 12-year-olds in the U.S., use of the social networks jumped to 38 percent in mid-2009 from 31 percent in 2006.

Another verification of the rise in more youngsters socializing on the internet is traffic monitor ComScore. The company figures that 3.6 million of Facebook’s 153 million monthly visitors in the U.S. are under 12. Yes, I know Facebook requires a minimum age of 13. My daughter is ten and she can’t join yet.

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. And, I would like to know how FB figures that one out among its 600 million members worldwide.

Of late, FB shifted its security process because of user’s complaints. FB now uses contemporary assessments about online site factors such as FAQs and a help center to for members to better understand the policy. The new presentations hopefully offer a complete explanation of policies that contain information concerning the information FB accumulates and uses, particularly, for target advertising to its users.

The popularity of social networking sites will continue to grow as will the underage social network users. But, if the parents are allowing their kids to lie about their age to use sites like FB, then so be it. Perhaps, FB should add a section to their new presentations concerning the importance of making the right choices. What is true for you is true for you.

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