According to a recent study by Pew Internet and American Life Project almost half of all 12 year old children are actively using social networking sites like Facebook despite not meeting the minimum age requirements as outlined in these sites terms of agreement. That number increases as children grow older, with 82% of kids who are 14-17 claiming to jump on these types of sites regularly.
This figure is disconcerting, especially considering that Facebook takes great measures to keep underage users off their platforms. According to a separate report by the Daily Telegraph, in an effort to combat the widespread underage use of their site, Facebook is booting roughly 20,000 underage users per day.
At first glance, a number like that may seem impressive, but it’s only a fraction of the estimated 600 million active members who hit their platforms on a daily basis. With social networking sites mainly being a “below 40” phenomenon, one can only assume that Facebook isn’t even putting a dent into the underage use of its website.
So, what’s the big deal anyway? Who cares if a kid wants to chat with his/her friends over the internet; share pictures and comment on each other’s walls? Well, according to Senator Franken, who was partly responsible for tightening the noose on Facebook’s haphazard treatment of user’s private information several years ago, the problem comes in youngsters vulnerability to the outside influence of other Facebook users: “These younger users are the most vulnerable to predators on Facebook and the rest of the Internet and it should be impossible for them to inadvertently share their phone numbers and home addresses with anyone.”
At present, Facebook is reeling from this attack, and trying to figure out a way to deter the hundreds of thousands of children who attempt to join their network on a daily basis. In the months ahead expect Facebook and other similar sites to start tightening their restrictions all across the board. Even those who aren’t underage will be affected, possibly even changing the future of social media marketing as we know it.
What do you think? Do you feel children should be permitted to use social media to connect? Are we protecting them or stunting their growth?