First Daughters (And Anyone Else Under 13) Shouldn’t be on Facebook Anyway

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When Michelle Obama told the Today Show this morning that 12-year-old Malia and 9-year-old Sasha are too young for Facebook, it got us thinking about Facebook’s policies and age restrictions. What’s Facebook’s policy, anyway, and what are they doing to enforce it? What are the dangers of being underage on Facebook? Read on for answers.

No Tweens Allowed

Facebook’s privacy policy forbids kids under 13 from joining the site and encourages parents, friends and family to report an underage user. Still, this rule is somewhat of a formality. It’s quite simple for a 12-year-old to fudge her birthday by choosing a different birth year from the drop-down list. That bit of lying is really all it takes for a wily under-ager to get a profile on the site. And ever since Facebook did away with requiring users to join a network, kids don’t even have to go through the trouble of getting approval to join a school’s network.

The bottom line here is that it is against Facebook policies to join the site if you’re under 13. But for many tweens, the rules are made to be broken, and this rule is quite simple to break. As far as enforcement goes, Zuck and his people don’t have the time to constantly be the tween police, and they pretty much rely on user reports for enforcement, mainly in the form of parents reporting their children. It also appears that if someone other than a child’s parent tries to report them, the tween’s profile may not actually get deleted. As the “report an underage child” form states, “If the reported child’s age is not reasonably verifiable as under 13, then we may not be able to take action on the account. In this case, if you are not the parent of this child, then we strongly recommend that you encourage a parent to contact us personally, using this form.”

Dangers

To parents, the Internet often seems like a looming threat. Of course, with all the scandals involving kids revealing too much online, they’re certainly right to be concerned. But if a 12-year-old is banned from Facebook, she’s certain to find another way to interact online (remember those anonymous chat rooms? How about MySpace?). The best bet is to be open with your tween about the Internet, social networking and what his or her limitations are.

Or you could tell your kid that the first lady doesn’t let her kids on Facebook, either, and leave it at at.

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