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Posted on 06.08.2011

Should Young Kids Go Straight From Cartoons to Facebook?

First, let me say I am not a parent. Nonetheless, I am struggling with recent comments by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg who wants to recruit Facebook members under the age of 13, despite the fact that is against federal law for anyone under the age of 13 to sign up for online accounts like Facebook.

After reading several articles about this issue, it is clear Zuckerberg is passionate about education.  He even pledged $100 million to a school system in New Jersey. Zukerberg believes Facebook can be a valuable educational tool that presents children with the opportunity to study and interact with other children all over the world. In an article in International Business Times, Zuckerberg said, "In the future, software and technology will enable people to learn a lot from their fellow students. Education is clearly the biggest thing that will drive how the economy improves over the long term.” Numerous educational websites already exist, but they typically don’t have the same risks as a mostly unrestricted Facebook profile page, which shares personal information that can make children susceptible to Internet scams or cyber bullying. According to a study by i-SAFE Inc., more than half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyber bullying. There are already millions of underage Facebook users because many young people just lie about their age.  So, if children are going to create a page anyway, should the government change the laws, allow children to create Facebook pages, and then create special restrictions for users under the age of 13?  In a Fortune magazine article, Zuckerburg said, "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." I think it is worth considering that if Facebook creates some restrictions and develops teaching and educational tools that children can learn from, there could be value. Perhaps if children under the age of 13 were allowed to “legally” create a page, we would eliminate their need to rebel and they may be more likely to play by the rules. This is an interesting debate. Let me know what you think.  

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