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June 05, 2012

Facebook's Policy is No Kid Stuff

By Julie Griffin, Contributing Writer

Facebook’s (News - Alert) decision to lift their policy restricting users under 13 is no longer a lofty suggestion floating in the air; it is now potentially the most critical decision of Zuckerburg’s career. Legal paperwork has just landed on Mark Zuckerburg’s desk summoning Facebook’s CEO to provide a detailed plan over how he intends on allowing children access to the social network while staying within the perimeters of policies set by higher powers. If ever there was an event with the potential of turning society on its head, it’s this one.

Owning the world’s largest social network comes with serious responsibility, and Texas Republican Joe Barton and Massachusetts Democrat Edward Markey intend on getting that point across before any major decisions are made regarding the privacy and protection of children. In addition to concerns voiced by current U.S. lawmakers, are laws already in place such as the 1998 Children’s Privacy and Protection Act. And in addition to legal obstacles, a spokesman from the Center of Digital Democracy tells the San Francisco Chronicle that Facebook faces technical challenges as well. In fact, Facebook will be required to create a “state-of-the-art” system for this to work.

Reports indicate that 7.5 million users last year were under the age of 13 with five million under the age of 11. This information is hardly surprising to many parents, 37 percent of which admitted in a study that they were aware of their children’s Facebook accounts. Knowing this information poses another question: Should Facebook be obligated to make these changes for children anyway?

Even though many people speculate that Facebook’s decision to lift the under 13 policy will ultimately lead to additional revenue, it could very well be more trouble than it’s worth. Because of child protection policies, Facebook may not be allowed to advertise to the younger age group at all – a shame, considering the potential revenue that could be generated from the lucrative ‘tween’ market. Not to mention, does Facebook really need a sordid reputation? It seems that one is already starting to develop, with one critic comparing Facebook’s strategy to hook kids with Big Tobacco. “What’s next? Facebook for toddlers?” he scoffs.

Edited by Brooke Neuman
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