NEW YORK (AP) — Though Facebook bans children under 13, millions of them have profiles on the site by lying about their age.
The company is now testing ways to allow those kids to participate without needing to lie. This would likely be under parental supervision, such as by connecting children’s accounts to their parents’ accounts.
Like many other online services, Facebook prohibits kids under 13 because federal law requires companies to obtain parental consent if they want to collect information about those children.
Such information collection is central to Facebook. Every photo or status update a kid posts on Facebook could count as information collection. Many companies consider the parental-consent requirement too burdensome, so they simply ban all children under 13 instead.
But that ban is difficult to enforce. In many cases, parents themselves help children skirt it by setting up profiles for them and lying about their ages. There are an estimated 7.5 million kids under 13 on Facebook, out of more than 900 million users worldwide.
In a statement, Facebook noted that many recent reports have highlighted “just how difficult it is to enforce age restrictions on the Internet, especially when parents want their children to access online content and services.”
“We are in continuous dialogue with stakeholders, regulators and other policymakers about how best to help parents keep their kids safe in an evolving online environment,” the company said.
Few details are available on the nature of Facebook’s tests, which The Wall Street Journal reported on in Monday’s editions. Relaxing the ban on younger children could be a long way off, or never get implemented, as happens with many features that Facebook tests.
The report comes just two weeks after Facebook began trading stock as a public company. Its stock price has fallen in part because of concerns about its ability to keep increasing revenue and make money from its growing mobile audience.
To James Steyer, the CEO of the nonprofit Common Sense Media, Facebook’s discussions on permitting young kids to join is about expanding its audience — and profits.
“With the growing concerns and pressure around Facebook’s business model, the company appears to be doing whatever it takes to identify new revenue streams and short-term corporate profits to impress spooked shareholders,” Steyer said in a statement.
But Stephen Balkan, the CEO of another kids-and-technology nonprofit, the Family Online Safety Institute, disagrees.
Balkan, who sits on Facebook’s Safety Advisory Board in an unpaid position, said the company has been discussing the issue for more than a year. That’s months before Facebook made regulatory filings in February for its initial public offering of stock, which took place in mid-May.
“It has nothing to do with the IPO,” he said.
Balkan offered some ideas about what Facebook could look like for kids. For one, the default setting to their account could be set to “friends only” so that strangers can’t see their posts. Teenagers who are 13 to 17 currently have their accounts set to “friends of friends” by default, so the under-13 restriction would be a step beyond that.
In addition, parents could have final say on whom their kids become friends with on Facebook. And Facebook could even keep advertising off kids’ accounts, he added.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some movement from Facebook this before the end of the year,” Balkan said. “By the way I think it would be a good thing if they do it right, rather than this untenable situation of just kicking off under-13s when they discover them.”
More Related Stories
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
- "Bookless library" set to open in Texas
- 2 more arrested in London attacks
- Glenn Beck: CNN interview with atheist tornado survivor was a setup!
- Incoming BBC news director on journalism gender gap: "We can do better"
- Illegal construction, shoddy materials at fault in Bangladesh factory disaster
- Ahead of Obama's speech, U.S. acknowledges four American drone killings
- Must-see morning clip: Bill O'Reilly visits "The Daily Show"
- Lawsuit alleges anti-gay hiring practices at ExxonMobil
- Boy Scouts poised to vote, still greatly divided on gay youth
- House supporters of KXL received $56m from fossil fuel industry
- 80-year-old becomes oldest to climb Mount Everest
- Before FBI shooting man implicated self, Tsarnaev in triple murder
- Paul McCartney backs Pussy Riot
- UK emergency committee convenes after attack
- Brave scout leader tried to reason with London attackers
- If Alex Pareene were a cable news executive...
- El Salvador court delays ruling on abortion case while woman's life hangs in the balance
- UK officials: Radical Islam behind London attack
- Pa. governor "can't find" any Latinos to work in his administration
- London machete attack could be linked to terrorism
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11