It should surprise no one that many users on Facebook are below the required age of 13, but what you may not know is that Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg seems alright with that. During a talk at the California NewSchools Summit, Zuckerberg voiced his desire to allow younger users to use the ubiquitous social networking platform. From ZDnet:
“That will be a fight we take on at some point,” Zuckerberg said according to CNN. “My philosophy is that for education you need to start at a really, really young age. Because of the restrictions we haven’t even begun this learning process. If they’re lifted then we’d start to learn what works. We’d take a lot of precautions to make sure that they [younger kids] are safe.”
The minimum age of 13 is set by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, a federal law passed in 1998. His statement is particularly bold; though social media is certainly pervasive it is not universally accepted or even trusted. Many recent news stories have highlighted online bullying of young people, some ending tragically. Facebook itself has faced a backlash as of late, with some people leaving the site, voicing displeasure about how the site handles personal information, and even creating alternatives.
It’s very easy to dismiss Zuckerberg’s dream of opening Facebook even further as simply an attempt to grow its user base. However, Zuckerberg may be riding the edge of a change in opinion.Fox News report notes that the percent of parents that feel comfortable allowing their child to use social media has doubled over the past year, reaching 17% of those polled. Moreover, 7.5 million Facebook users are under 13, and 5 million of those are under 10. If youngsters cannot be stopped from using the service, then perhaps Zuckerberg is right and Facebook be adapted to better suit those users. Providing stronger content filters, or parental notifications for instance.
To realize any of this, Zuckerberg will first have to mount a campaign to change the law, and perhaps even deal with angry parents and users who want to keep Facebook clear of youngsters. How the divisive CEO plans on doing any of that is anyone’s guess, but it should be interesting to watch.
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