Parents Helping Kids Use Facebook, The Right Thing To Do?

Last September, Facebook was plagued by an angry father who filed a lawsuit against the largest social network. Behind the tirade is Facebook not thoroughly upholding their ToS (Terms of Service) prohibiting children under the age of 13 to use the social network. This is after the father had learned that his 12-year old daughter had racy photos posted on the site which had received sexually explicit emails from strange men. It seems like the photos not only get Facebook likes in Ireland as this is where she and her father hail from as well as from the different parts of the world.

So far there has been no update about the lawsuit but the fact that an incident like this had reached several online social news outlets makes it a pressing concern to be dealt with by Facebook.

However, questions arise of who should have been held responsible for such a lapse. Is it a matter of child discipline or is Facebook being negligent in detecting users violating its Terms of Service? The answer may have been partially answered by a recent study regarding Facebook usage of children less than 13 years of age.

The findings may surprise you but I think at the back of your mind it does happen? What am I talking about? Below are statistics that might help explain it all.

According to Microsoft Research, Senior Researcher Danah Boyd, parents not only give consent to children under the age of 13 in joining the social network but help them in creating one at the same time.

-         55% of parents of 12-year-olds are aware that their kids have Facebook accounts.

-         82% of parents are aware that their kids signed up while 76 percent assisted them in joining.

-         36% of 1,007 U.S. parents surveyed said their kids joined Facebook before turning 13 while 68 percent of parents admitted they helped create those accounts on the social network.

-         53% of parents think Facebook has a minimum age requirement indicated on the ToS, while 35 percent believe it is only a recommendation.

-         78% think violating the minimum age limit for online service is tolerable and acceptable.

These are big numbers in the line revealing that more than 50 percent of parents are allowing and assisting their children in joining Facebook. This makes you pause and think whether they are aware of the repercussions of exposing young and innocent minds to contents on Facebook and the likelihood that their children’s information might be used for purposes other than commercial. It is not difficult to figure how many ill-intentioned people are on the site waiting to prey on the innocents and unknowing such as children.

For awareness sake, almost all social media sites indicate on their Terms of Service that they forbid children under the age of 13 to join the online network. This prohibition is not uncommon as it is on the COPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) that empowers parents to determine whether a site has the right to gain access to any shared information of the young user.

However, does the thought that parents allow and even assists their young children to join Facebook makes it okay to let them continue using the site? Or do we need to question the depth of understanding that these parents have with regards to social media usage?

What is your stand on this?