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Modern Parenthood

Facebook lowering age restriction? Will your toddler friend you?

Facebook is reportedly exploring lower age restrictions to allow the under-13 set to get in on the social network. Reality is, many under age are already using it – but do they really need it?

By Correspondent / June 4, 2012

Facebook might lower age restrictions, allowing under 13 children to have their own pages, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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Ah, Facebook. There are always fun news tidbits for parents swirling around the massive social media site.  Cyber bullying, drunken party pictures, prom dress “dibs” ... you name it.  

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Correspondent

is a longtime Monitor correspondent. She lives in Andover, Mass. with her husband, her two young daughters, a South African Labrador retriever and an imperialist cat..

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Now, we hear, parents of younger kids can start to get worried, too.  (Or excited, if you fall in the “social networking is good for children” camp.  Which we respect, also.)

The Wall Street Journal reported today that Facebook may do away with its (poorly enforced) age restrictions, allowing users to be less than 13 years old. 

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With parental consent, of course.

According to sources at the social networking site, the Journal reported, Facebook is exploring technology that would connect younger children’s profiles to their parents’ accounts, allowing mom and dad to control Junior’s applications and to approve (or reject) his “friends.”

It would also let Junior buy games and other services and link those charges back to his parent’s account. 

Awesome.

Clearly the social good in mind there.

Anyhow, a lot of people who study social media say this expanded access is a smart move. A 2011 Consumer Reports study found that 7.5 million people younger than 13 already use Facebook, and often with parental knowledge. It would be far easier to apply proper privacy settings if Facebook knew its users’ true ages.

And for better or worse, many technology-watchers say, people today communicate over Facebook. That’s true for adults, teens, and, increasingly, younger children. Rather than bury one's head in the sand, they say, it's better to embrace the reality and encourage safe online communication.

But there are others who worry that Facebook is simply trying to expand its marketing audience and that this will open yet another avenue of unregulated electronic advertising to kids. 

"With the growing concerns and pressure around Facebook's business model, the company appears to be doing whatever it takes to identify new revenue streams and short-term corporate profits to impress spooked shareholders," said the CEO of advocacy group Common Sense Media, James Steyer, in a statement.

"But here's the most important issue: There is absolutely no proof of any meaningful social or educational value of Facebook for children under 13. Indeed, there are very legitimate concerns about privacy as well as the impact on the social, emotional and cognitive development of children. What Facebook is proposing is similar to the strategies used by Big Tobacco in appealing to young people – try to hook kids early, build your brand, and you have a customer for life.

"What's next? Facebook for toddlers?"

Indeed, why wouldn’t there be?  There is an explosion iPhone and iPad aps for toddlers, why not a profile page, as well? 

RELATED: Are you Helicopter Parent? Take our quiz!

I can see it now. 

 Status update: Mom tried to get me to nap. LOL!!!

I wonder whether my one-year-old would friend me. 

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