Facebook is exploring the option of allowing children under the age of 13 to create an account with parental supervision, according to The Wall Street Journal. Parents will be able to link their accounts to their children’s in order to monitor who they friend or what apps they download.
Currently, users must be 13 years or older to create an account. Facebook is researching various technologies that would provide protection for children under the age of 13 on the social network.
In a statement quoted by several news outlets, Facebook said, “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.” The May 2011 issue of Consumer Reports revealed that 7.5 million Facebook profiles are operated by children under the age of 13.
Newsroom.fb.com offers no official statement regarding the age requirement change. Facebook did, however, release an announcement about the relaunching of the Facebook in Education page.
Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, feels access to the social network for children under the age of 13 would have educational benefits. In May he told the NewSchools Summit, “In the future, software and technology will enable people to learn a lot from their fellow students.”
Is Facebook concerned with providing children under 13 with a safe, educational social networking tool or is it responding to pressure from investors to broaden its reach for advertisers? Although Facebook has over 900 million members worldwide, its share price has decreased by 29% since the company went public in May, and advertising revenue continues to be a challenge. The age requirement change Facebook is proposing could backfire and alienate parents—a PR mess that Facebook cannot afford at the moment.
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