Facebook considers giving kids access to social networking site

6:01 PM, Jun 4, 2012   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida -- Facebook has 900 million users worldwide and to sign on one needs to be at least 13 years old. But it turns out there are more than 7 million underage users who lie about their age and some with their parent's help. 

Facebook's founder Mark Zuckerberg is trying to legitimize those underage users by changing the rules and opening up Facebook to kids. The potential move to expand its clientele is stirring up controversy.

"That is a bad idea. There are too many things out there on the Internet that can harm children," says Dara Seise, parent of a 9-year-old girl.

"It's the parents responsibility. If the parents let them do it that's their choice. I think it's inappropriate and they are not mature enough to be on Facebook," says Kim Malouf a parent of three kids, aged 8, 11, and 13, who are not on Facebook.

Facebook reportedly shuts down more than 20,000 accounts of underage users a day. Still, Consumer Reports says there are 7.5 million underage users and 5 million of those are under the age of 10.

The Children's' Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) says any website that collects personal information from its users like Facebook cannot sign on anyone younger than 13. However, Zuckerberg wants to change that rule and add a safety net by reportedly adding privacy buffers and attaching the child's Facebook page to the parents' so they can monitor it.

"It's not enough," says Malouf. "There are some parents that aren't mature enough to be on Facebook. So, how can a 10-year-old be mature enough to be on Facebook?"

USF Social Media Professor Kelli Burns says the risks are high for parents who can't closely monitor their kids online.

"It opens them up to cyberbullying, seeing photos they shouldn't be exposed to, or someone trying to scam them or get personal information from them."

Seise has other concerns too, "There's still that element that you can privately message someone I think that would also be a problem."

Zuckerberg has reportedly said in order to educate kids on how to properly use social networking sites, like Facebook, one needs to start educating them early and see what works while taking precautions.

Isabel Mascarenas

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