Facebook is exploring ways to allow children under 13 to use the site. The policy against children under 13 is partly due to the fact that children that age need parental supervision before any information — particularly the kind that Facebook deals in — can be collected, and partly due to privy and safety concerns. However, many children — both with and without their parent’s knowledge — can easily lie about their age when creating an account. According to Consumer Reports, out of the 900 million Facebook users, 7.5 million are children under 13 and over 5 million are under the age of 10. And of the under-13 Facebook users, almost two-thirds of their parents were aware that their child had a Facebook account.
Some of the possible controls for young children could be linking their account to their parents, allowing parents to approve all friend requests, removing advertising from accounts, and making it possible for only confirmed “friends” to see their information. Currently, the profiles of children age 13 to 18 can only be seen as publicly as “friends of friends”, unlike adults, who can choose to have their information seen by “everyone”.
The possibility of adding younger children to the site has been addressed by Mark Zuckerberg in the past. He was quoted in Fortune Magazine as saying a year ago, “my philosophy is that for education, you need to start at a really, really young age.”
Today’s Wall Street Journal summarized the debate over young users for Facebook: “[allowing children under 13] could help the company tap a new pool of users for revenue but also inflame privacy concerns.”
The BBC tried to get a statement from Facebook on the tests, but its spokeswoman would not confirm or deny the reports.