Zuckerberg: Clearly not a parent

by Morgan Siem on May 20, 2011

in Social Media

Ok, not that I am a parent either, but… really, Mark? You want children under 13 on Facebook?

I’m hoping that people will take a stand on this one because I think it’s important. So far, the comments on the article I read are loud and clear that people are against this, as is Jim Tobin to whom I’d like to give credit for bringing my attention to this in the first place:

Zuckerberg’s push to lift the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) upsets me because we’ve all heard horror stories about children being abducted because they didn’t know how to protect themselves online. Kids don’t understand the safety concerns with publishing all kinds of information like where they live and whether they’re home alone.

The sad truth is there are dangerous people out there. I’m all for fewer restrictions, but not at the expense of children’s safety. Unfortunately, people who want to cause problems are often very savvy. If kids are “available” online, these people will find them, friend them and take advantage of the information they learn about them (their interests, what they’re doing, who they talk to, where they go to school, etc.).

I understand that it’s a parent’s job to protect their child and not Facebook’s job, but many parents don’t understand Facebook well enough to fight this battle. Is it worth the risk to test it out? I also understand that a lot of kids under 13 are already on Facebook anyway by lying about their age, but let’s not start encouraging more of them to join the bandwagon.

I know it’s not related, but I can’t help but notice that this comes in the same week that Facebook dropped restrictions for the advertisement of tobacco, liquor, guns and other “adult” items. Just sayin’.

Please feel free to comment. Thoughts?

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Jim Tobin at Ignite Social Media May 20, 2011 at 3:19 pm

Thanks for the nod Morgan. You bring up a good point, but I was more worried about cyber-bullying. This will certainly happen at age 13, 14 and 15 (and beyond), but to a 10, 11 or 12 year old it can be even more devastating.

I mean, middle school kids (particularly girls) can be ruthless, and kids younger than 13 will have a tough time understanding the many ramifications of attacking someone online (damage to that person, damage to their own reputation, the permanence of things online, etc.). So if we can hold off until at least 13, so much the better.

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Morgan Siem May 20, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Really important point, Jim. Thanks for bringing that up. Cyber-bullying has become a really big deal and the impact can be devastating and long-lasting. And you’re also right that kids are likely to damage their online reputations if they jump on Facebook before they understand the ramifications.

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Hudson Haines May 20, 2011 at 3:42 pm

It’s defiantly an interesting topic. I coach a little league baseball team of 10-12 yr olds and I happened to overhear a few of the parents talking about Facebook the other day. They were talking about someone who had written some “not-so-nice” comments on one of the kids Facebook pages and how it had made him feel pretty bad. The parent said that her son didn’t even want to go into school the next day.
It’s hard to believe that as a kid, you’re not even safe from bullies at home. I almost wonder if 13 isn’t still a little young for kids to be on Facebook?

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Hudson Haines May 20, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Of course, even the 10 yr old knew how to spell “definitely” correctly on Facebook.

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aburtch May 20, 2011 at 3:38 pm

You said it best in your title, he clearly doesn’t realize what level of policing that would take from parents. Many of my friends have a hard time keeping up with what their teenagers are doing on Facebook, much less what the pre-teens would do. A recent NYT column focused on identity development in children and how having an online persona would alter their natural development. My daughter is not yet two, but knows how to operate my iPhone. I imagine it’s going to be interesting once I encounter these issues myself very soon.

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Michael Hubbard May 20, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Devils advocate here… And keep in mind, I’m the father of small children that LOVE everything technology… But if the rest of the internet is open to children, why should Facebook have to restrict itself? Isn’t this a parenting job and not the responsibility of the company? If your argument is that there is proven bullying going on on Facebook, then why don’t we restrict the internet as a whole – not just FB.

Again – I’m a parent who understands it’s impossible to shelter our kids 24/7 (but I’m going to die trying!), but at what point do we actually take some accountability into our own hands.

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Jami Solli June 7, 2011 at 3:13 pm

What if you came home and found your young child “following” his/her congressman on Twitter or friending them on Facebook? There are lots of creeps out there like that perv Congressman Weiner; Elliot Spitzer; DSK what else do I have to say?

Signed,
Your favorite Devil’s Advocate

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Jay Dolan May 20, 2011 at 8:14 pm

You’re not thinking like Zuckerberg and company.

Removing that restriction is more beneficial for Facebook in the long term. Facebook’s biggest asset is the social graph it builds about you. The more information they have about you, the more relevant ads they can target to you. The sooner you start on Facebook, the more information they can accumulate about you over the years.

Is it dirty? Yes. But Facebook is a for profit company that has no proven ethical track record. Anything they do is about building those profits for their investors.

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