Minnesota, USA May 23, 2011- Facebook is under extreme heat when it comes to privacy and the amount of under-aged users that are easily prowling its pages -in addition to other numerous reasons, of course. Although the policy is in place to prevent children 13 years old and younger from joining, CEO Mark Zuckerberg expressed his personal views of the benefits to allowing children to join. There is one road block in Facebook's way known as COPPA (Children's Online Privacy Protection Act) - an act that encourages websites to take the extra step in verifying age and parental consent prior to allowing these users to get on board.
Complying with the guidelines set in place by COPPA is not as difficult as Facebook leads us to believe -it goes as far as saying that it would like to legislation to alter the legislation rather than taking the route that other targeted children's social networking sites take such as Imbee, Togetherville, and Everloop. But why go through the effort of changing the legislation rather than following the lead of these other sites It may be as simple as not wanting to take the continuous effort of ensuring children's protection and privacy.
Zuckerberg made a point in the benefit of using social networking as an educational tool. Perhaps he needs a little educating in the important component of educational tools -safety. Teachers are unlikely to encourage its students to use anything that could be potentially harmful. After all, it is easier to simply select another site that complies with COPPA because there is social networking sites specifically targeted at children's use.
If Facebook would like to comply with the current rules of COPPA and gain a larger audience in the younger age groups, it should consider the following ways:
1. Require parental permission
On other children's sites the parents are required to vouch for the child's age and prove that they approve by entering credit card information -which does not charge anything but is just a tool to verify.
2. Modify the content that younger audiences can view
Just like how search engines can filter the results depending on the parental controls, Facebook should easily be able to do this when it comes to finding appropriate games, groups, and other content.
3. Give parents control of accepting friends requests, posts, ETC; in addition, the ability to view all account information without children's knowledge -parents can choose to disclose this information if they choose
It is not that we cannot trust children, but we cannot trust the judgment of them. It is natural for them to trust others which could put them into harmful situations. In addition, they cannot handle adult situations such as harassment. We cannot always shelter children but we need to only expose them to this as we know they are emotionally mature enough to handle it in a constructive way.
4. Create content specifically for children
I am not saying opening up a group where someone older could prey upon a large group of young children. However, I am saying to introduce more educational tools. Encourage teachers to open up groups to increase interaction between students and stimulate their creativity; this could be an opportunity to make unique assignments to help children understand class material even further. Plus, it could be more interesting for children as well!
5. Go a step further and protect other minors that are older than 13
We should realize there is not a magical age where children can cope easily and make good decisions. In reality, it is much later than age 13. If Facebook wants to take it up a notch, it would closely monitor the activities of minors and notify parents of possible issues.