This Week In Facebook - Should underage users be allowed on the site?

By Meghan Giannotta,

When signing up for a Facebook account, the site requires that all users be of a certain age. While Facebook has become aware of the fact that many of its users have fibbed their way into making an account regardless of their age, research has now shown that a shocking amount of users are under the age of 13.

According to the Huffington Post’s Facebook blog, Facebook has kicked off 800,000 kids in one year alone. Of Facebook’s estimated 5.6 million users, 3.5 percent of its United States registered users are children. The company reportedly has banned children from using the site but that has not stopped children from finding their way in.

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) requires websites to protect children 12 or younger while using online networks. This was set in place to help prevent marketers from attempting to get personal information from children. Children under the age of 12 also need to be protected from the type of advertisement they are exposed to on the web.

Sites that do allow 12 year olds to access them, require parental approval before the child enters. Facebook, while aware of this law, says that it is except from requiring parental permission before joining, because the site denies entrance to those under the age of 13.

According to the Huffington Post, Facebook uses a special screening process to attempt to find users accounts who have lied about their age. The Facebook sign up process is relatively easy to bypass and during a study, an underage user was allowed to sign up using the same account information denied just an hour before, simply by changing their birth year.

While many are concerned about the fact that Facebook has become very easy for underage users to access, there doesn’t seem to be a clear way to keep these tech savvy children away.

Facebook’s advisory board member and Internet Connect Safely group suggested that Facebook access a form of national ID or school records for proof of age, but is aware that there are many reasons why this process will most likely not take place.

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