It’s no secret that millions of Facebook users are under 13, minimum age required by the social networking site to use the service. Some of these minors get permission from their parents to create an account, while others lie about their age to get past sign-up restrictions.
Two weeks ago, it was estimated that 7.5 million Facebook users are below the minimum age, and more than 5 million of them were 10-years-old or younger. For minors who lack the experience or judgment to use a social network service, this raises the scary potential of sexual predators tracking down kids who reveal their age in an online chat, or other threats such as online bullying.
In March, Facebook privacy advisor Mozelle Thompson claimed that they still banned 20,000 underage accounts per day. Though Facebook does have various checks in place to help curb the registration of underage users, Thompson admitted the obvious by stating “It’s not perfect.”
And it looks like they won’t improve it to perfection because Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg seems alright with the fact that there are so many of these ‘illegal’ users. The 27-year-old billionaire is even willing to alter the site’s regulations to permit children under 13 to join.
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act mandates that websites which collect information about users aren’t allowed to sign on anyone under the age of 13. Zuckerberg wants this changed so that younger kids can be allowed on Facebook, in the name of education.
“That will be a fight we take on at some point,” Zuckerberg said. “My philosophy is that for education you need to start at a really, really young age. Because of the restrictions, we haven’t even begun this learning process. If they’re lifted then we’d start to learn what works. We’d take a lot of precautions to make sure that they (younger kids) are safe.”
It’s easy to dismiss Zuckerberg’s vision of opening Facebook even further as simply an attempt to grow its user base, but if youngsters can’t be stopped from using the service, then perhaps he is right and Facebook has to make some adjustments to suit those users better, for instance providing stronger content filters or parental notifications.