When I was a kid, my parents wouldn’t let me get an AOL Instant Messenger account until I was 14 because of some language one of them somehow spotted in the Terms of Service. Likewise, today’s youngins shouldn’t be allowed to dive into the deep and terrifying abyss of “The Facebooks” until they have reached the ripe old age of 13. Not content with its current user pool of adults, Facebook is looking into a way to rope kids in on the fun, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal. Get ’em while they’re young and they’ll never break free, right?
It’s not like kids under 13 aren’t already making Facebook accounts; they totally are. The problem is that they shouldn’t be, which puts Facebook in a weird place when it comes to acknowledging them as an audience and ultimately marketing to them. A kid option for Facebook accounts would let them theoretically legitmize the children on their network, and more importantly, actively encourage kids to join up.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the system in development involves having a child’s account be a literal child account of an adult’s account. This way, the parent can control who the child can friend and what apps the child can use presumably in addition to being able to see any and all of the child’s activity. In addition, Facebook may be looking into ways to enable a parent to be charged for a child’s in-app purchases. Sounds great, right?
Facebook has yet to confirm or deny the reports, but it seems pretty likely this is all true. After all, you had to expect Facebook would try to get kids involved, and it doesn’t seem like there would be any approach better than or even aside from the one outlined above. Whether or not it’s a good idea for anyone involved is another question entirely, but it’s all been pretty much inevitable from the start. You can’t really be surprised. Being terrified, on the other hand, is a totally valid reaction.