Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Privacy Concerns of Underage Facebooking

I found this article and was really surprised by just how many kids are on Facebook! It's not just about not being annoyed by them (although that's a huge part of it for me), it's about privacy. Here's what it said:
According to a study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, nearly half of all 12-year-olds in the U.S. are using social network sites, despite not meeting the minimum age requirements for sites like Facebook. And such popularity only balloons once the teens grow older: roughly 64% of 13-year-olds are social networking; between the ages of 14 to 17, that figure jumps to 82%, says Pew.
Whoh. Whoh. Whoh. Almost half of all 12-year-olds in the U.S. are using Facebook? Okay... "social networking sites... but let's face it, they're mom and dad aren't on MySpace (whatever that is anymore) and I doubt they are too interested in Twitter at that age. I do know a 10-year-old who has a LinkedIn account, but that is different, plus he's just super smart. So let's face it, they're talking about Facebook. OVER HALF of them twerps! Parents, if you truly care about your children, you won't allow this. When I was little, I didn't play video games or sink myself into the computer. I was out and about, riding my bike, playing basketball, tag, hockey, etc. And if I was inside I was playing with Legos or pretending I was Batman. I feel like this is just one more example that technology is limiting the creativity in us, especially young kids.

But that doesn't mean Facebook isn't trying to stop kids from becoming addicted to the network at such a young age (though indoctrination does have its benefits!). According to a report by the Daily Telegraph today, Facebook is kicking out roughly 20,000 underage users per day.
In a meeting with Australia's cyber-safety committee, Facebook's chief privacy adviser Mozelle Thompson agreed that underage users were taking advantage of the site. After all, any user no matter his or her age can register for the site by simply lying when signing up--Facebook has no mechanisms to detect whether a teen is telling the truth or not. "It's not perfect," said Thompson.
However, Facebook's privacy czar did argue that Facebook is trying to stop these young'ins from continuing to use the site. "There are people who lie. There are people who are under 13 [accessing Facebook]," Thompson said. "Facebook removes 20,000 people a day, people who are underage."
Of course, that's a fraction of the nearly 600 million users on Facebook, but underage users have become a growing concern for the network, especially as it faces increased pressure from regulators--whether in Australia or the U.S. Last April, Senators Franken, Bennet, and Schumerpenned a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg over privacy issues related to collecting the personal data of users. This month, Sen. Franken stepped up pressure on the world's largest network, with support from even more Congressional colleagues.
This time the focus was specifically on "users between 13 to 17 years of age." 
"Facebook's new privacy policy would endanger the privacy and safety of children as young as 13. Under Facebook's policy, 13 million users under the age of 18 may be allowed to share their personal information just like adult users," Franken argued. "These younger users are the most vulnerable to predators on Facebook and the rest of the Internet and it should be impossible for them to inadvertently share their phone numbers and home addresses with anyone."
And that's not even taking into consideration the users who are younger than 13.
Personally I think, as long as they are "kids," meaning not an adult, their parents need to be ultimately responsible for this. Facebook isn't a toy. There are a lot of responsibilities that are given to you, when you create a Facebook account, that even adults don't follow at times. This is not Facebook's responsibility to look over us and make sure we have the right privacy settings. That's our responsibility and it is also the parents' responsibility to ensure their children are staying safe online.

Source: Facebook Booting "20,000" Underage Users Per Day: Reaction to Growing Privacy Concerns? via

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