Regulating Facebook for Children
KREX News Room
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo.- Thanks to Facebook, the world's leading social media website, things like “friending” and “liking” are now common terms used by many.
However, as the world becomes more connected, children who may be too young are joining in on the trend.
In order to subscribe to the popular site, you must be at least 13 years old.
Officials say it’s difficult to regulate this, since Facebook doesn’t have a way of telling whether or not children are lying about their ages.
"There is a reason why 13-year-olds want to be there,” said Adam Cochran, mass communication professor at Colorado Mesa University. “They're a very social group and it's a way to keep in touch with their friends."
Nearly 3.5 percent of the social media's estimated 955 million clients are younger than 13 years old.
However, under the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, it's against the law for this generation to utilize such sites.
“I think that's one of the problems. We tend to create laws of the Internet and then we don't really have any good way to enforce them,” said Cochran.
While School District 51 officials recognize they can only regulate online activity of children during school hours, and ban sites like Facebook within the school system, they're trying to tackle the situation by educating their students on how to be proper online citizens.
"We want our kids to be good ethical users of the Internet and the online tools they have access to,” said Christy McGee, spokesperson for School District 51. “They need to know how to be appropriate users of that tool."
Although that tool could be a good resource, some parents say it doesn't offer any face-to-face interaction.
"As children, they should have friends that they see at school and at the park,” said Rachel Englehart, a parent. “They really don't need to be connecting with people that are far away or close by that they may not necessarily call or go meet up with as friends."
Cochran says if parents are worried, they should set some ground rules for their kids.
"No secret passwords,” said Cochran. “I think parents should set up their own Facebook accounts, and then monitor what their children are doing. Then, I think there should be spot checks."
To mitigate the problem, the Federal Trade Commission plans to place restrictions on companies and websites targeting preteens through the use of Facebook.
Facebook has made some strides in identifying these younger users, and eliminates nearly 800,000 young users each year.