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Facebook Junior? The social network prepares for younger users: report

Facebook is building technology that would allow users under the age of 13 to access the social network, according to a new report. 

By Matthew Shaer / June 4, 2012

Facebook is reportedly weighing technology that would allow younger users to sign onto the social network.

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Facebook could soon allow users under the age of 13 to access the social network, the Wall Street Journal reports today. According to the Journal, engineers out in Menlo Park are in the process of building a kid-safe version of Facebook, which would pack special privacy controls, and allow parents to control how their kids use the site.

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In accordance with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) of 1998, Facebook currently opens its doors only to users 13 or older.  

"Many recent reports have highlighted just how difficult it is to enforce age restrictions on the Internet, especially when parents want their children to access online content and services," Facebook reps wrote in a statement released after the Journal published its article. "We are in continuous dialogue with stakeholders, regulators and other policymakers about how best to help parents keep their kids safe in an evolving online environment." 

Obviously, it makes sense that the newly-public social network would want to expand its membership: advertising is the cornerstone of the Facebook business strategy, and the bigger the potential audience, the better for Facebook. But hey, is it a good idea to let kids onto Facebook? 

Over at Forbes, Larry Magid says yes, providing the rollout is "done carefully and thoughtfully with extra precautions." 

"Whether we like it or not, millions of children are using Facebook," Magid writes, "and since there doesn’t seem to be a universally effective way to get them off the service, the best and safest strategy would be to provide younger children with a safe, secure and private experience that allows them to interact with verified friends and family members without having to lie about their age." 

As Chloe Albanesius of PC Mag notes, back in May of 2011, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he believed younger users should eventually be allowed on the social network. "In the future, software and technology will enable people to learn a lot from their fellow students," Zuckerberg said at the NewSchools Summit. First, though, Zuckerberg continued, COPPA would have to be lifted or revised. 

For more tech news, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut.

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