Monday, May 23, 2011

Zuckerberg Would Like to See Younger Kids On Facebook

According to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, younger children should be allowed to use Facebook. Earlier this week Zuckerberg said that he truly believed that younger kids should be given Facebook access for educational purposes.

According to Fortune magazine, Zuckerberg spoke at the NewSchools Summit in California saying, "In the future, software and technology will enable people to learn a lot from their fellow students."

As of right now, Facebook only allows individuals who are 13 and older to sign up for a Facebook page. Of course, it is incredibly easy for kids to get around that rule by simply saying that they are older than they really are. Consumer Reports stated that there are approximately 7.5 million underage kids who are currently using Facebook.

With regard to allowing kids younger than 13 to join the site, Zuckerberg said, "That will be a fight we take on at some point… my philosophy is that for education you need to start at a really, really young age."

What stands in the way of this occurring is the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). This act prohibits Web sites from collecting any kind of information from users who are under the age of 13. Because of this Zuckerberg said, "we haven't even begun this learning process. If they're lifted then we'd start to learn what works. We'd take a lot of precautions to make sure that they [younger kids] are safe."

I honestly do not know if this act will be overturned anytime in the near future though. The chief technology officer of Facebook Bret Taylor visited Capitol Hill on Thursday, May 19 where he was grilled by Senator John Rockefeller about the issue of underage kids using the site.

Rockefeller got right down to the point, telling Taylor, "I want you to defend your company here because I don't know how you can.”

He continued saying, “Whenever we find out that someone has misrepresented their age on Facebook, we shut down that account. We don't allow people to misrepresent their age."

In Facebook’s defense, the site reported that in March it removed as many as 20,000 profiles from the site each and every day due to certain infractions, including the issue of underage use.

In a recent statement, a Facebook spokesperson claimed that the site is currently designed to cater to the needs of two different age groups: 13 to 18 and 18 and up.

"However, recent reports have highlighted just how difficult it is to implement age restrictions on the Internet and that there is no single solution to ensuring younger children don't circumvent a system or lie about their age," the spokesperson continued. "As Mark noted, education is critical to ensuring that people of all ages use the Internet safely and responsibly. We agree with safety experts that communication between parents or guardians and kids about their use of the Internet is vital. We believe that services such as Facebook have a role to play in encouraging this."

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