Should minors be able to register on Facebook? The social media network may open to users under 13

Published: Thursday, July 12 2012 9:42 a.m. MDT

Recent survey results by Consumer Reports indicated that some 5.6 million children under age 13 are violating Facebook terms in registering for an online account. Facebook has considered authorizing underage children under parental permission.

Matt Rourke, AP

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Survey results recently released by Consumer Reports indicate that some 5.6 million children under age 13 are violating Facebook terms in registering for an online account.

"Jeff Chester, a child-privacy advocate who led the campaign to enact COPPA, wants the FTC and Congress to consider a different option," Consumer Reports announced. "He thinks Facebook should create a section for children under 13 and require opt-in parental permission, as COPPA requires."

At the head of divergent reports that would follow, The Wall Street Journal was the first to report this as a "step that could help the company tap a new pool of users for revenue but also inflame privacy concerns."

USA Today interviewed parenting expert Susan Bartell, psychologist and author of "The Top 50 Questions Kids Ask," who called to question "the value of such an effort." Her concerns were that this change "comes with a false sense of safety. I think too many parents will think their kids are safe on 'Baby Facebook' and now they don't have to monitor them. In reality, their kids are just going to become used to social media that much younger."

Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe at The Huffington Post agreed, adding that "our job is to help our kids realize that there is a reason that age limits exist and respecting those limits is what makes our society work and allows us to develop and grow as members of that society. So, just as our kids have to wait to be the right age to drive, drink and vote, let's help them understand that in today's world, they also have to wait to be the right age to use Facebook. They'll survive — and be better off for it."

"What’s the better compromise?" Janice D'Arcy at The Washington Post asks, "create safeguards for parents who allow their children on Facebook with the trade-off that Facebook begins to allow advertising to children? Or continue to restrict the social media site to children 13 and older and ignore the privacy and safety issues that unregulated use brings with it?"

According to The Los Angeles Times, "The FTC is currently reviewing the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998, which regulates what personal information websites can mine from kids. Facebook spent some of its $650,000 in first-quarter lobbying money on the law."

Rachel Lowry is a reporter intern for the Deseret News.

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