How Young is Too Young for Facebook?
BY Nancy Scola | Friday, May 20 2011
Consumers Union wasn't pleased before with how many sub-13-years-old Facebook users there seem to be on the site, and the group doesn't seem all that pleased with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's suggestion that kids even younger should be on social-networking sites. "My philosophy is that for education you need to start at a really, really young age," said the Zuckerberg at a conference earlier this week. Alas for Zuck, U.S. law restricts online registration for kids younger than 13.
The CU complaint about Facebook access for pre-pre-teens fits into a bigger debate that has been going on for years: should there exist a regime that restricts what kids and teens can see online? Some online liberties advocates worry that age verification systems are not only ineffective but can threaten the personal privacy, and free access to information, of Internet users of all ages.
Consumers Union has one other recommendations for Facebook that sidesteps the minority verification debate: build into the site an opt-in "eraser button" that allows users to expunge their Facebook records once they reach the age of majority -- something they'll presumably we able to prove with the credit card they signed up for to get a free t-shirt.
Note: Our Micah Sifry is a member of the board of Consumers Union.