It’s the social network bombshell no one in a zillion years saw coming: millions of Facebook users are underage. I know. Gasp.
That’s according to Consumer Reports‘ annual “State of the Net” survey, in which the watchdog routinely checks with over 2,000 U.S. households about Internet usage and related online behavior. Last year the survey revealed the majority of U.S. households using social networks like Facebook and MySpace had doubled between 2009 and 2010.
Wait, you didn’t know Facebook had an age requirement? Neither did I, but it does, and it looks like the magic number’s “13.” According to CR, at least 7.5 million kids, or “more than one-third of the 20 million minors who actively used Facebook in the past year,” were under 13. (Zoinks!) And that number could be low, since it’s only based on parents who knew their underage kids were Facebook members.
In fact CR found that over 5 million of Facebook’s 7.5 million-plus underaged were as young as “10 and under.” Facebook has 500 million users worldwide, but upwards of 5 million’s nothing to blink past, and we’re talking 5 million in the U.S. alone. Who knows how many tweeners poke around Facebook’s bustling, spam-thronged, personal-update-choked pages globally.
That’s not the worst of it. CR also found that underaged kids using Facebook were unsupervised by parents. The site claims—not wrongly—that this exposes them to “malware or serious threats such as predators or bullies.” Consider other points raised in the report, like: 15 percent of all Facebook users post “their current location or travel plans,” 34 percent post their birth date in full, and 21 percent with children post their children’s names and pictures.
What about Facebook’s privacy controls, your bastion against all things nefarious? CR found “roughly one in five” weren’t using them.