The problem of underage Facebook users

May 10, 2011

Facebook is awash with underage users. But is that a problem we should be concerned about? And if so, who is to blame for it in the first place?

According to a new survey from Consumer Reports there are 7.5 million underage people on Facebook. The minimum age for obtaining a Facebook account is 13-years-old, but millions of children are lying about their ages to get on to the number one social networking site. Five million of the underage users are thought to be under the age of 10.

Facebook moved to head off any criticism arising from the results of this survey (and others) by issuing a statement reading:

Recent reports have highlighted just how difficult it is to implement age restrictions on the Internet and that there is no single solution to ensuring younger children don’t circumvent a system or lie about their age. We appreciate the attention that these reports and other experts are giving this matter and believe this will provide an opportunity for parents, teachers, safety advocates, and Internet services to focus on this area, with the ultimate goal of keeping young people of all ages safe online.

While I have no doubt Facebook could be doing more to ensure less underage children get on to the site, and more to kick them off once they’re detected, the ultimate blame must lie with the parents. I well understand how difficult it must be to keep an eye on what your offspring are doing online thanks to the number of ways of connecting to the Internet these days, but doing so to a certain degree is a necessity.

If I had kids I personally wouldn’t want them on Facebook until they were 13, and certainly not when they were 10. Not only are there a range of creeps and weirdos out there who would love to talk to young people on a social network, there is also an immense amount of unsavory content posted to Facebook. Adults can enjoy or ignore it at their leisure, but kids are another matter.

Underage Facebook users is a problem, but it’s one that must be solved at home.

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