As most Calgary and area residents are likely well aware, masses of children under the age of 13 have “live” Facebook accounts. Why? That’s because people are allowed to lie on the internet and some and bypass some security protocols. Facebook’s policy strictly prohibits anyone under the age of 13 from operating an account.
Does Facebook just watch and let it happen? No, various reports have estimated that up to 40% of the Facebook users under the age of 18 are actually under the age of 13. Facebook keeps on removing accounts belonging to underagers every day. Ballpark figures put the number of day-to-day removals at more than 20,000.
Welcome to Facebook’s mammoth game of whack-a-gopher. Where one underage account is terminated, a hundred pop up in its place- Facebook knows they’re powerless.
Simon Milner, Facebook policy director in the U.K. and Ireland, discussed the social network’s problem policing their no kids under 13 rules. Milner went on to say...”We haven’t got a mechanism for eradicating the problem of underage user],” Milner also called the problem “tricky.”
“Facebook does have a rule that users have to be over 13, as does YouTube, which not a lot of people know. It is not because we think that Facebook is unsafe but because of a US law about children’s online privacy. So we have it as a global rule.” Milner was referring to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), an erstwhile law, which details how minors’ personal data can be accessed and shared.
As this law was enacted back in 1998, the FTC feels the need to update it for the further assisting the digital age where social networks, apps, and other internet properties are nicking information. The nuts and bolts or the new information is: definition change: that files geolocation information under a child’s personal information. The change means that: services cannot track a child across various Web sites and other online services. Second update: extends privacy protections to modern Web applications apps, games and Web site plug-ins. Facebook is one social provider who has taken issue with the “plug-ins” addition. Their pervasive “like” button, which appears on just about every website you would ever visit, could be affected.
Milner went on to say, that the most obvious contrivance, the age check, is unrealistic:
“It is increasingly difficult to know what to do. You can’t make everyone prove their age – that would get privacy advocates up in arms.”
Facebook responded, saying,
“Enforcing age restrictions on the Internet is a difficult issue, especially when many reports have shown parents want their children to access online content and services. We welcome today’s recommendations by consumer, privacy, health and child groups as we continue our dialogue with stakeholders, regulators and other policymakers about how best to help parents keep their kids safe in an evolving online environment.”
Unfortunately underagers face the same hazards that teens and older people face on social media – scammers, bullies, criminals. Worryingly a U.S. Appeals Court ruled that convicted sex offenders cannot be barred from operating Facebook accounts, as it’s unconstitutional to deny them such an omnipresent form of communication.
Underside line: Youngsters are going to find a way onto Facebook, Facebook is currently powerless to stop it, and the only real option seems to be to just let them in officially, and try to give parents control over their experience on the site. If you feel or know that someone is underage you can report it to Facebook’s security center. While we cannot monitor and supervise children all the time there are security settings on Facebook that can make underage’s safer on Facebook.