Poll: Should Facebook Let Kids Under 13 Join?

Facebook is considering opening up its site to children under the age of 13, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report. Currently Facebook has age restrictions on joining, users must be at least 13 years old to get an account. Some children lie and register using the wrong birth date, other children are prevented by their parents from joining until they’re much older than 13.

The Wall Street Journal article says that Facebook may allow children under 13 to join with restricted accounts, perhaps tied to a parent’s Facebook account for easy monitoring. People have expressed concern for safety and privacy of kids, knowing that even adults are prone to over-sharing and falling for scams. Younger children also may be lured to spend money on Facebook games, as many adults have been unable to resist the urge to spend funds on adorning their virtual farms, castles or cities.

What are your thoughts? Do you think Facebook should open its site to children under 13? Vote in today’s Wonder of Tech poll and let us know!

 

Parental controls may include supervising friend requests and authorizing third party applications. Some think that no matter what the controls, giving young kids access to Facebook is a bad idea. Others think that by using strict controls, Facebook could be providing parents with an opportunity to teach children online behavior and safety rules.

Currently, the US Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), prohibits Internet companies from collecting personal information on children under 13 without verifiable parental consent. In order to open up its site to younger children, Facebook would either have to get the law changed, arrange for verified parental consent or refrain from collecting personal information on young children.

Facebook has an admittedly difficult time in enforcing the age restriction now because many kids lie about their ages to get an account. Enhancing parental controls for tweens and younger may make Facebook safer for them, giving parents more power over their children’s accounts. But if accounts for younger kids are too severely restricted, kids may still try to skirt the restrictions by continuing to lie about their age when they create an account.

If Facebook allowed children under 13 to join, what restrictions would you like to see? If you’re a parent of young children, at what age would you let them join Facebook? Let us know in the Comments section below!

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On Wednesday, LinkedIn and eHarmony revealed that passwords were hacked from their sites, with millions of members being affected. If you are on these sites, make sure to change your passwords immediately.

*Facebook friends image by Collin Key(altered)

*Children at Play image by Twentyfour kids

Comments

  1. Anneliz Hannan says

    Interesting poll results so far. I hope you will share the final results when complete. I did participate but always feel some reserve as I am not a parent.

    I found that I wanted to check off several of them, with the exception of the last two statements. I have strong convictions on who or what should (or should not) be dictating ‘parenting’ but also agree that companies have a social moral to act responsibly for public welfare rather than profits. In the end it is moderation and monitoring for me.

    Thanks

    • says

      Hi Anneliz, Yes, you can access the results at any time by coming to this page and clicking on View Results. I find the responses interesting as well, as with responses to all of the other Wonder of Tech polls.

      I have allowed people to vote more than once in this poll in case they have more than one answer to the question.

      Even if you aren’t a parent, your opinion still counts! :-bd
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..Uber – Your Magic Wand for Riding in Style!My Profile

  2. says

    You know, Carolyn, I almost voted “No-one should be on Facebook” – but that’s unrealistic, so I went with “kids under 13 would get into too much trouble.”

    At 13 you may not know it, but you are extremely vulnerable. You’re a mother. You know how often tweens and teenagers speak with utter confidence on things they obviously don’t understand. (To be fair, adults do that too, but at least they’ve got a wee bit more experience.)

    A 13-year-old lying about her age to get on Facebook may be very clever in her own estimation, but the fact is, you give away your age through verbal cues. When you discuss your interests, the cultural references you drop, why, even your spelling and punctuation speak volumes about you.

    To me Facebook is not a safe place, least of all for children. It’s exploitative and predatory and I don’t think 13-year-olds have the mental equipment to deal with that — and maintain their offline identities safe without adequate parental supervision (and by adequate I mean strict and vigilant).

    The worst bugs I ever got in my computers came via Facebook, by the way.
    Bell recently published this awesome post..What can Mark Rothko teach you about writing?My Profile

    • says

      Hi John, Wow, you definitely have a strong opinion on this. As the mother to two 13 year olds, I agree with what you’re. They are extremely vulnerable and trusting, but unaware that they are.

      I did a story in March called Clean Up Your Permissions! http://www.wonderoftech.com/clean-up-your-permissions/ about a site that lets you easily remove Facebook (and other) apps you may have given permission to but aren’t using any more. I recommend people do this frequently to avoid bugs, hacking and other headaches that can arise from apps.
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..Fun and Fantastic Father’s Day Tech Gifts!My Profile

      • says

        Well, a guy’s got to have a strong opinion on something ;)

        Might as well be business ethics & privacy, which are worthy causes. I wouldn’t spend one-tenth the time worrying about the World Cricket Championship, I promise you that.

        Not even sure that’s what they call it, but there is a world championship of some sort.
        Bell recently published this awesome post..Cold RainbowsMy Profile

        • says

          Oops, I meant to say “I agree with what you’re saying.” Don’t know what happened to the last word of that sentence in my reply to you.

          The world championship of cricket is calls the Cricket World Cup.

          I applaud your passion, John, and I greatly appreciate you sharing your thoughts with us here. Facebook stirs strong emotions in many people, combine that with the issue of children and there are bound to be passionate opinions. That’s precisely why I regarded this issue as a good topic for a Wonder of Tech poll.

          I hope your weekend is fantastic, John! :-)
          Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..Google Knowledge Graph: Your Search Just Got Smarter!My Profile

  3. says

    At 13 I was admin of an active forum. While I did not own the forum, it was not a “kids place”. I learned a lot. Of course, I learned a lot growing up in an active business as well. I’ve always been “out here” more than many parents might thing safe or sane. While I’ve made my share of screw ups (one that garnered me serious offline trouble with a male) overall it put me light years ahead of most of my “peers”. It’s been important however that mom has always supported me (she was programming before Windows was released) and always trusted me. That includes trusting me, rather than jumping on me, when I tell her there’s a problem. That’s a safety net most kids don’t have. Of course, if a parent isn’t active and supportive and encouraging in a kids life, the kid will simply find other ways to get in trouble anyways so all the rules and regs won’t really matter.
    Kim
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    • says

      Hi Kim, I’ve been an admin of some forums before and know that you definitely get all kinds posting. I can’t imagine doing that job at 13. But I’m not surprised that you a) did that and b) learned a lot.

      It’s great that you and your mom have that kind of trust and that she has the tech gene that you clearly have inherited. (*)

      You’re right, most kids don’t have parents that are programmers and many parents may not be comfortable on Facebook at all. But expanded parental controls may make it easier for parents to see what their children and their children’s friends are doing on Facebook for better monitoring.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with us, Kim!
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..Google Knowledge Graph: Your Search Just Got Smarter!My Profile

  4. says

    Interesting poll Carolyn!

    I did read about these recent Facebook discussions online and my instant reaction was that they shouldn’t allow kids that young on Facebook at all. In-fact, they could have some surer way to know their real age, before allowing them to join.

    Speaking of my kids, though they are well into their teens, I don’t allow them to sit online for more than an hour or less twice a week, and now it really doesn’t bother them much. And though they are both on Facebook, but I have an access to their accounts, so that scare is there, even though I never really check it out.

    I guess kids that young are vulnerable and can easily be tricked to join or do things that may not be right, or get led away by other people. And that isn’t the age for them to go through all these things. No matter how much parents try stopping their kids, once Facebook allows kids to join, they enter the unknown arena.

    Thanks for sharing and making us all think about this topic. :)
    Harleena Singh recently published this awesome post..How to Heal a Relationship When Love Hurts?My Profile

    • says

      Hi Harleena, Yes, I find these results fascinating. So far it’s about 50% against this idea and 50% either for it or open to the idea with the proper parental controls. A truly divided vote!

      I think it’s tough to verify a kid’s true age online. Kids may find a work-around no matter what requirements Facebook has. Offering parental controls beyond what is offered now may be a good idea, even for kids over 13.

      I like your parental restrictions, Harleena. They seem to be a good balance to letting your kids become familiar with the Internet without overdoing it.

      Have a great weekend, Harleena! :-)
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..GetGlue – Your Social Network for Finding Fun!My Profile

  5. says

    Hey Carolyn! Nice topic out here. According to me, it should be easily allowed because if you see nowadays, every child having enough knowledge about computers and who can afford one is seen on FB. So it’s not really any bad thing.

    Cheers

    • says

      Hi Raaj, Welcome to The Wonder of Tech! Interesting point. A lot of kids have their own computers these days, even kids younger than 13, which makes it more difficult for parents to monitor what their children are doing online. Extra parental controls may help parents to see what’s going on with their kids on Facebook.
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..Fun and Fantastic Father’s Day Tech Gifts!My Profile

  6. CarolB says

    I’m not so crazy about younger kids being on Facebook. But that’s just me. I did have my teenager wait until he was 13 to join up. Glad I did. I felt he was then old enough to understand the pitfalls of Facebook – like assume everything you write is public. And that not everyone writes nice stuff. I still don’t like him “out there” but he is – and he has more friends than me! lol

    • says

      Hi Carol, Interesting point. Since you made your son wait until he was 13, did you require him to follow the rules of Facebook or did you make the decision to let him on at 13 because that’s when you thought he was ready to be on it.

      You’re right, there is a lot of trouble that can come from kids being on Facebook. Something as simple as a mean comment or one that is misunderstood can cause a lot of turmoil to anyone, but especially to kids.

      I’m glad your son’s Facebook experience has been a positive one so far. I hope it continues to be that way!
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..Nokia Lumia 710: A Smart Starter SmartphoneMy Profile

  7. says

    Hi Carolyn, I have to say kids should not be allowed to join facebook simply because they would be exposed to so many bad influences on there. And besides the “social” side of the internet will not teach real world social skills. No there are way better activities that kids should be spending time on than facebook, like learning to play an instrument when they are young. Have a nice weekend! :)
    JD recently published this awesome post..♫ The Story Of The Guitar – First Fender Stratocaster In The UK ♫My Profile

  8. says

    I still have a love-hate relationship to Facebook, and the reason why I can’t decide if it’s just awesome, is that it seems that every single time that I log on, I get information from people that I shouldn’t have seen. And I am absolutely sure that the person who published it didn’t think of me when she published it :)

    And that’s my biggest problem with facebook. It seems that a lot of people actually don’t understand who they are talking to, and when they publish an embarrasing picture of themselves, or someone else publishes it, way too many people will see it, not only their closest friends.

    13 year olds will probably have even a bigger challenge related to understanding restrictions and filters, and they’ll do a lot more stuff that they probably shouldn’t have been doing. So, I say no to 13 year olds on Facebook :)
    Jens P. Berget recently published this awesome post..Facebook Edgerank – what you need to knowMy Profile

    • says

      Hi Jens, I wonder if everyone has this problem, friends sharing things they shouldn’t be sharing. We can block their posts, which can avoid the awkwardness of un-friending someone, but for some people un-friending might be the best solution.

      I had a friend complain to me recently that she didn’t like Facebook because people just posted strange political ideals. I suggested that perhaps it was her friends that were the problem, not Facebook, but she quit Facebook anyway.

      You’re right, Jens, parents want to protect their kids from being exposed to things they shouldn’t be seeing. Facebook can increase this risk so letting children on the site is an area of concern for many parents. I’m hoping that if Facebook is able to lower the age for joining, that they put strict parental controls in place so children can be as safe as possible.

      Thanks for stopping by and letting us know your thoughts, Jens!
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..Fun and Fantastic Father’s Day Tech Gifts!My Profile

  9. says

    It is certainly scary enough out there and if not monitored (I hate that word but it is necessary) properly, it would definitely allow for too much abuse. Of course, just because you are not on Facebook, just access to the internet opens that portal up for just about anything, right?
    Bill Dorman recently published this awesome post..That had to be the worst post everMy Profile

    • says

      Hi Bill, Excellent point. Are the hazards on Facebook worse than the hazards of the Internet in general? Kids could get into trouble with email, other Internet sites, even just using the phone. If Facebook allowed for strict parental controls than it could actually be safer for children than other means of communication with their friends.
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..Tales2Go – Are We There Already?My Profile

  10. Hajra says

    I had a similar discussion on my blog a few weeks back. The point is kids are already there; why go through the trouble of having them lie. It is for parents to have a talk about what is important for them and what is not. I have cousins as young as 11 joining Facebook and some as old as 22 and still don’t feel the need for it.

    Emotional maturity is important; the ability to make the right choice; not to get carried away.

    I read a news report once that said that a 22 year old committed suicide because a girl un-friended him on Twitter. Age isn’t an issue sometimes.

    • says

      Hi Hajra, Wow, I can’t imagine being that upset because someone unfollowed me on Twitter.

      You’re right, a lot of personal safety has to do with emotional maturity. If a parent were supervising a kid’s use of Facebook, that could be a teaching opportunity for the family. Kids could then see how to use Facebook properly, connecting with friends, posting, tagging pictures, allowing 3rd party app permissions.

      Whether or not Facebook lowers the minimum age for joining, I would love to see more options for parental control.
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..Fun and Fantastic Father’s Day Tech Gifts!My Profile

    • says

      I have three kids. 15, 14 and 4. My older kids have facebook pages and keep up with their friends around the world and here in France .

      i definitely think that under 13 is too young but, kids are lying about their age. Why not allow kids to get on but require them to be tied to their parents account? I suppose kids cold still lie about their age anyways and not tell their parents. But if parents are monitoring their kids computers they’ll find out right away. If they don’t monitor then that’s how kids get on.

      Believe it or not, i learn a lot about the friends my kids are hanging out with that i don’t normally get to see face to face.
      This is a tough spot to be in for facebook. But if we can’t beat them than join them and beat them at their own game.
      ps
      I have a parental control software on my computer that monitors my kids activities online. They can’t do anything on the computer without me knowing what they are doing. It still baffles me that some parents don’t even know that their kids have accounts on facebook and lie about their age.
      Sigh…..
      Annie Andre recently published this awesome post..Video:20 Useful Phrases To Learn Before You Travel To France and BeyondMy Profile

      • says

        Hi Annie, You’re right, many kids open accounts on Facebook easily by lying about their age. If they were provided a way to join without having to lie, then that might make Facebook safer for kids. Parents might be reassured that they are able to keep track of their kids’ Facebook activities easily.

        My kids are 13 and 16 and I learn a lot about their friends from Facebook. It shows me a side of them that I might not otherwise see. Some good, some not so good…

        Which parental control software do you use for your kids’ computers? Are you satisfied with it?
        Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..DriveSmart: The Cure for a National Epidemic?My Profile

        • says

          Carolyn,
          The parental control software i use is called netnanny but… although i do like it, the one downside is you keep having to renew everyyear. Like 56 dollars i think.. can’t remember, it’s automatic. Small price to pay for monitoring my kids. It emails me a weekly report based on my parameters. so if they use the F word or say bad words or whatever, it will trigger an email to me.

          One time they were restricted from playing games so i blocked all video gaming sites on the internet and it emailed me telling me if they tried to get on. I think you can even do key stroke logging.
          p.s.
          Make sure your kids havn’t filtered what content you can see. My friend’s daughter was only letting her mom see certain content and was blocking her from seeing the real content. Her mom had no clue until one day when i saw what her daughter was posting through my sons account. She was mortified. Oh well.
          Annie Andre recently published this awesome post..Video:20 Useful Phrases To Learn Before You Travel To France and BeyondMy Profile

  11. Jamella Biegel says

    Hi Carolyn,

    I voted No. Kids under 13 could get into too much trouble on Facebook. This is true for adults too, but they are responsible for themselves whereas children are not.

    Initially I thought about voting yes if there are parental controls, but we know that all parents don’t monitor what their kids do online. I really don’t see the point of kids under 13 being on Facebook. I am also wondering how they would stop adults from friending children that they don’t know. The more I think about this, the more I am against it.

    I have a 16 year old daughter. She is on Facebook, but isn’t very active. She’s not really into computers, so this may explain her non interest in Facebook. I think she joined Facebook a couple of years ago, after I joined. She had to accept me as a friend as a condition of joining.

    It will be interesting to see what happens if Facebook decides to grant access to this age group. Please keep us posted.

    • says

      Hi Jamella, Good point. Just because Facebook grants parental controls doesn’t mean parents will use them. Parents might be busy or might not understand the dangers enough to monitor their children’s use effectively.

      I agree, I insist that each of my girls includes me as a friend. I also insist that I have their password. They can block me from seeing messages and when they’re online so having their password is very important for me to see what’s really going on.

      One of my girls is very active on Facebook but the other two aren’t on much at all. It’s interesting, not all kids are captivated by Facebook.

      Thanks so much for voting and sharing your thoughts with us, Jamella! :-)

  12. says

    Casted my vote to “Yes. Kids are going to join anyway so why force them to lie?” The more you give restriction to kids nowadays the more they will become curious about it. Better if Facebook have some feature with it that isn’t available on normal account so they will stick with it.

  13. Tanya says

    In my opinion, anyone below thirteen should not be allowed on Facebook. Those kids are in a period of learning how to interact with other people and I guess that it will be a lot better if they do it in the real world.
    Tanya recently published this awesome post..what are smokeless cigarettesMy Profile

    • says

      Hi Pudubu, I agree, Yahoo chat can be frustrating. If you don’t have the proper setting, strangers can contact you constantly. To change the setting, go to Options (at the top of the page) => Messenger Options => Privacy and then check “Block all users not in my Contact List. ” Parents should do this for their kids.

      Perhaps I should write an article about that.
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..Fun and Fantastic Father’s Day Tech Gifts!My Profile

  14. Ruth Zive says

    Here’s the conundrum, Carolyn. Kids join anyways. Facebook isn’t monitoring whether or not its users are ACTUALLY 13, right? Ultimately, I think it is the responsibility of the parent to monitor their children’s online activity.

  15. says

    I had only one interaction with a kid below 13 on facebook and he drove me and many of my friends nuts. ;) He was quite annoying in some ways (he was a young blogger too). He learned too fast and wanted results fast. These are the kids these days.
    However in my opinion, he was still a young kid and it was really dangerous for him to make friends like that. I unfriended him and told him to come back when he was above 13. I believe that children less than 13 though mentally capable of doing everything technical are still vulnerable to a lot of people looking for easy targets.
    I believe it is impossible to stop kids from being online . They want to earn fast and impress people. One way is to be on facebook and create a network. There are so many fake profiles everywhere. I think many of them are of kids less than 13. So if one stops them, they will find way to bypass it. They will go to friends house, cyber cafes or use cell phones to surf.
    Its quite similar to things we did when we were kids ( like running away for a few hours to watch cinema ;) ). Kids are curious and often find the right resources to get what they want.
    What is the solution? I think most of it lies with parents who have to become more understanding and appreciative of the fact that their kids are smart. Often the life goals of kids are different from parents. For example, parents are content with a simple life and a simple job, today’s kids want more than that and often they will go to any length to achieve that.
    Thus why not provide the support to kids while also gently plodding them about allowing them some monitoring. Its give and take and kids probably grasp it readily. That means parents have to become friends of their children and not actually the parents. They have to involved just like a great police force, providing security for a party while also getting strict when things go wrong.
    I am sure children would look at their parents with admiration. Then it would not matter if facebook allows children less than 13 or not.
    Ashvini recently published this awesome post..Want more sales? Listen to your customerMy Profile

    • says

      Hi Ashvini, Very interesting points. That is downright scary that a 13 year old reached out to become friends with you on Facebook. He shouldn’t have been friending strangers. I make sure my kids only become Facebook friends with kids they have met through camp, school or church. Even a “friend of a friend” is banned by me.

      I wonder though if all parents are able to monitor their kids on Facebook. It’s interesting, I half-jokingly offered “What’s Facebook?” as an option, but no one voted for it. Although pretty much everyone knows Facebook, not everyone is on it or active on it. So parents may not understand it well enough to be able to monitor their kids effectively. Better parental controls could help parents who are unfamiliar with Facebook the tools to better monitor their kids.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with us, Ashvini! :-)
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..DriveSmart: The Cure for a National Epidemic?My Profile

  16. says

    Hi Carolyn
    I don’t believe much in making all those kind of rules and banning for Internet services. I don’t think that they work much anyway. I think it is better that parents teach their kids how to act on the Internet and how they can take care of themself.
    Of cause that is just my opinion :-)
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  17. says

    I think that this is a mistake to let kids under 13 join Facebook. Right now there are too many people who waste all their free time on Facebook and if children start joining then they will lose their study time. To me this is not the best move to make, however, as an investor of Facebook I do see the upside to it.

    Adam
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