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June 04, 2012

An Honest Facebook for Tweens?

By Julie Griffin, Contributing Writer

Facebook has been considering the possibility of allowing the under 13-year-old crowd to hold accounts – without having to lie. The tween market  - defined by kids ages 8 to 14 – consists of a generation appropriately deemed the “digital natives.” Some may be surprised to learn that Facebook (News - Alert) has such a policy because a study from 2011 indicates that 36% of parents were fully aware of the accounts held by their children, with some parents even helping their kids set up their account.   

There are good reasons why Facebook’s staff and policy makers are hesitant about giving the world-wide media site the kid-friendly stamp of approval (NBC’s Predator offers some reasons), but perhaps the development of parental tools as well as a few more tweaks here and there would be worth the effort if it meant pulling in more revenue. On the other hand, the additional liability could be more trouble than it’s worth. Furthermore, the discussion about changing the age policy, as well as other over-hyped Facebook announcements, could end up not amounting to anything anytime soon.

Among the strategies discussed concerning how to make Facebook a safer place for children is the development of parental control tools that will leave “friending” decisions completely up to parents or the child’s adult supervisor. Parents would also have the decision over which apps could be downloaded, which could lead to regulations requiring TV-like ratings assigned to various apps. Another factor that would lead to a safer environment for children would be to require all users to disclose their real ages.

Having individuals disclose their real ages would thus provide an additional opportunity for more effective advertising; it’s no secret that one of Facebook’s greatest weaknesses is their ability to generate more revenue from mobile advertising. This would ultimately make room for more growth opportunities for the tween market, which some reports suggest is quite lucrative these days with nearly $43 billion in annual spending.

Edited by Allison Boccamazzo
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