Simon Milner, Head of Policy in Facebook, Britain, recently declared that Facebook is planning to abolish the act of disallowing children below 13 years of age from becoming members (this CNET post explains the situation well). The opinions obviously are divided straight down the middle. Many parents feel that this age limit is necessary as it helps protect children from various threats on the social network. While there are others who will welcome this news as they feel that the decision to allow their kids on Facebook should be in their hands alone. After all, all it takes for an individual below 13 years to register on the network is to lie about their date of birth, with or without their parents consent. While there may be children who want to be on Facebook because their parents are on it, there are parents who actively encourage their young kids themselves to circumvent this rule. They claim that it is a far more dangerous situation if a 10 year old, for instance, pretends to be a 16 year old.
While this is true to a certain extent, I believe the minimum age limit is necessary. Young children are vulnerable and susceptible to various threats over social networks. They can fall prey to malicious parties if left unmonitored. People who wish to navigate around this rule will always find a way to do so, but we must think about many others who are genuinely safe thanks to this stipulation. Young children are not mature enough to distinguish between real and fake friend requests. They are more likely to click on fake links and can also fall victim to various online crimes like cyber-bullying, phishing scams, spam etc. Threats like these can be avoided with adult supervision and monitoring, but it is unreasonable to assume that an adult will be around every time a child accesses Facebook. The platform has garnered 900 million users while upholding this age limit, so I see no reason for them to now expose children to various threats just to increase their user base.
We would like to know what you think – Should Facebook maintain their under-13 age limit or not? Feel free to share your opinion with us.