Too Young for Facebook?

Posted by: in Human Resources, Marketing Insights, Social Media Insights & Trends on April 5, 2012

As a social marketer by profession, I counsel on the virtues of Facebook to many different people and companies. As a parent, I’m now faced with my oldest child (age 12) pleading for his own Facebook account.

My wife and I have decided that the answer, for the foreseeable future, is no. There were arguments for (from him) and against (from us), but ultimately the decision is ours. Since we do our best to reason with our children, I knew I had to come armed with a good argument for our position. For the sake of others on the fence when it comes to social media usage for children, I figured I’d share some of the research and counsel in this post.

The simplest and most direct case against this is Facebook’s terms of use. They clearly state that you should not create a Facebook profile if you are under 13. However, a recent study from New York University showed that 55% of parents of 12-year-olds say their child has a Facebook account. What’s more, 76% of those parents said that they helped create the account for their children. So is this age restriction an arbitrary, self-imposed rule from Facebook? No. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) dictates that online services employ the 13-and-over age restriction. As simple as that argument is, that’s the one that seemed to resonate most with our son. He simply didn’t want to break the rules.

The next argument we considered was one of safety. Allowing social media access to those too young to properly deal with it opens them to possible exposure to any number of dangers: pornography, profanity, violence, and – most disturbing – cyber-bullying. The tragic deaths of Megan Meier and Ryan Halligan have taught us that bullying takes on a more dangerous and public tone when it happens online. In fact, this was the subject of this episode of Glee.

The final argument is one that is least tangible or evident. It’s the future. These children who create and use Facebook accounts are leaving a digital footprint of their lives – the good, the bad, and the ugly. This footprint will most likely be checked by prospective colleges and later, employers. A quarter of U.S. colleges and half of corporate HR departments currently do this, and that practice will only increase. With all due respect to my 12-year-old, he and his friends can be idiots (no offense to actual idiots), and that idiocy will be laid out like a résumé from hell a decade from now.

All this adds up to him waiting for – and griping about – a Facebook account that must wait for now. And I suppose I should present his counter-argument … that timeless classic, “But all my friends have it.

 

By: Matthew Snodgrass

Group Director of Digital Strategy at NextWorks, partner of The W2O Group.

Find me on: Twitter Facebook
Pre-Commerce Check out W2O Group President Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on Amazon.com! http://amzn.to/bAmvFN. Join the conversation #precommerce.

4 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

  1. Lisa Rosenberg said

    Great blog Matt. I’ll keep handy for when Sam and Jacob start pleading their case 🙂

  2. Still a few years away at least 🙂

  3. I’m getting the same from our 11 year old. So far just telling him the TOS say you have to be 13 has worked, but some of his friends already have a profile. It’s a tough call!

  4. And last year, Mark Zuckerberg said he’d like to see that age limit go away.

Some HTML is OK

(required)

(required, but never shared)

or, reply to this post via trackback.