Facebook underage signups grow thanks to parents

22 Nov

November 2nd, 2011 at 8:28 am – Author
A new study which was part funded by Microsoft shows that children under 13 are signing up for Facebook, which breaches the federal laws in America, to protect children’s online privacy.

According to the report, there are millions of underage kids signing up for Facebook, and many parents are helping their children to lie, getting them online.

The findings show that 7 out of 10 parents said they helped their children set up accounts, violating the companies terms of service rules.

Danah Boyd, the co author of ‘Why Parents Helps Their Children Lie to Facebook about Age’ said “There has been outrage about under-aged children being on Facebook. And as it turns out, many parents are not only okay with it — they are helping their children set up accounts.”

The above comment found on the web and seen in the papers over the last week has fuelled the discussion about what age children should be allowed to be on Facebook. It is obvious that many parents deem their children are capable of handling both the complex Facebook privacy settings and the intricacies of friending and posting unseen as young as 8.

For me the issue is a little more complex than that. In fact, that is not the primary concern we should be discussing. The issue has to do with entitlement – I am entitled to participate in this technology and any rules set to regulate it do not apply to my children or me.

We live in a world where there are rules that govern our behaviour, our interactions with and our responsibilities to others. Without these rules we would have anarchy. Despite the fact that we may not like all of the rules, we are not entitled to believe they do not apply to us.

Travelling down the highway from Brisbane with my cruise control on the speed limit, I wondered if I was in a foreign land where 110 meant 120 as car after car, p-platers and all, sped past. Apparently they are entitled to travel faster than the law allows.

The message we are giving our children when we allow or assist them to break rules or break rules in front of them, is that rules, acceptable limits, do not apply to them. If they want to they will, becomes their mantra, and when the rules are applied, they will be shocked and dismayed that someone dares to say no to them. Unfortunately when that happens, their parents are similarly dismayed and come to their aid blaming all others.

A parent was complaining that their daughter was being bullied and harassed on Facebook. She was 10. She wanted to know what to do. Simple – it’s against the rules for her to be on Facebook. If she weren’t on there she wouldn’t be being bullied. Get her off.

This not a rant against technology, just pointing out that the argument about age is the wrong one. It’s about responsibility and setting the example. It’s about realizing, as both parents and children, that we are in fact entitled to little in this life, and any such entitlement comes with responsibility and respect for the acceptable limits that maintains society as we know it.

When is the right time for children to be on Facebook, I’m not sure, but I know the rules say it’s not 8 or 10 or 12 – you must be 13!

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