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Modern Parenthood

Facebook access for under-13 kids is good – if parents involved

Facebook is already used by millions of kids under 13 who lie about their ages to gain access. It makes sense that the social media network design specific guidelines for them, including parental permission.

By Guest blogger / June 5, 2012

A child looks at a laptop displaying Facebook logos in Hyderabad, India. Facebook currently prohibits children under 13 from having their own profile, but millions have gained access by lying about their age. Facebook is testing ways to allow kids to use Facebook under parental supervision, by connecting parents' and kids' accounts.

Mahesh Kumar A/AP

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You may have noticed a Wall Street Journal article on Monday about Facebook “developing technology that would allow children younger than 13 years old to use the social-networking site under parental supervision.”

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Guest Blogger

Anne Collier is editor of NetFamilyNews.org and co-director of ConnectSafely.org, a Web-based interactive forum and information site for teens, parents, educators, and everybody interested in the impact of the social Web on youth and vice versa. She lives in Northern California and has two sons.

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If so, that’s great news. A year ago, Consumer Reports did a study finding that 7.5 million children under 13 are using Facebook, so why would it not be good to have a social site suitable for kids under the “brand name” they love? They’re already there! And – though, in compliance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, Facebook says it deletes thousands of under-13 accounts a day – it’s clear that the federal law has not put much of a dent in under-13 use of social media. So what’s needed is a service actually designed for them, and that’s what Facebook is working on, reportedly.

Parents right there with them

The research shows parents aren’t unsupportive. Pew Internet reported last summer that adult use of social networking had doubled since 2008, and an earlier study from TRUSTe found that 95 percent of the 80 percent of US parents who have social networking accounts are on Facebook – and of that 95 percent, the vast majority (86 percent) are friends with their teens in Facebook.

Then researchers looked specifically at the underage question, finding that a lot of kids under 13 have their parents’ blessing. A study last fall, “Why parents help their children lie to Facebook about age,” found that, among parents of 10-to-14-year-old Facebook users, 84 percent were aware their children signed up and, of that 84 percent, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) even “helped create the account.” The study was led by social media researcher Danah Boyd, who for a CNET interview told my ConnectSafely co-director Larry Magid what she heard from parents of these young Facebook users:

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