Mark Zuckerberg sees under 13's on Facebook

24 May 2011 UK SIC

Mark Zuckerbeg founder of Facebook, has stated his determination to alter the site’s regulations to allow under 13’s to join the site. Speaking at the NewSchools summit in California in May 2011 he said “In the future, software and techology will enable people to learn a lot from their fellow students.” “Education is clearly the biggest thing that will drive how the economy improves over the long term,” he said.

This comes at a time when an influential senate committee confirmed that they were strongly against diluting children’s online security. The Senate Commerce committee chairman , John Rockefeller commented “I think he was focused on how the business model would work….He wanted to make it bigger and faster and better than anybody else ever had”. The committee also commented on the current levels of monitoring suggesting that these would put children at risk.

Research clearly indicates that already children younger than 13 are on Facebook. A survey published in May 2011 by Consumer reports concluded that as many as 7.5million users on Facebook are younger that 13, with 5 million being under 10. In the UK, the latest Ofcom media literacy report in April 2011 concluded that 34% of 8 to 12 year olds have a profile on a social networking site (requiring a minimum age of 13). In the US, a study discloses that 17% of parents allow their under 13’s to have a Facebook profile, up from 8% 12 months earlier.

So why is the minimum age 13? The minimum age of 13 is a requirement in the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) in the US. The Act deines that providers are not permitted to collect information about children younger that 13. Whilst clearly this is a US legislation international providers, such as Facebook, have adopted this standard as part of their global terms and conditions of use.

How could children under 13 use sites like Facebook? Simply put, either providers amend their sites to adhere to the US legislation or the legislation changes; “That will be a flight we take on at some point.” said Zuckerberg.

It is clear from his comments that Mark Zuckerberg can see a future in which under 13’s will join websites like Facebook. “My philosophy is that for education you need to start at a really, really young age,” he said.

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