Too Young For Facebook

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Thursday, May 26, 2011 - 9:33am

Millions of underage kids are thought to use website.

How young is too young for Facebook?

The founder of the popular social networking website recently said he thinks children under age 13 should be allowed to join.

Currently, federal law prevents websites from collecting personal information from kids age 13 and under, so Facebook won't allow them to register.

The magazine Consumer Reports recently estimated 7.5-million kids that age use Facebook anyway - with fake birthdays.

NBC affiliate WBBH recently spoke to kids and parents at a Lee County, Florida middle school.

They agreed not to identify the school to protect the privacy of the kids we interviewed.

Three 11-year-olds admitted they signed up for Facebook as 15, 13 and 16-year-olds with their parents' permission.

"They said if you want Facebook, you're just going to have to lie about your age," said 11-year-old Kyle.

The kids said 90 percent of their friends under age 13 also use Facebook with false ages.

"I have all their passwords. I feel comfortable. I see what they're doing. I look at it daily," said Marcy Taylor, a parent of a 10 and 13-year-old, who both use Facebook.

Some parents don't agree with that logic.

"Shame on you," said Jill Nixon, mother of 11 and 13-year-olds at the same school. "Your job is to be a parent and to pay attention to what your kids are doing. So you're looking the other way? What are you saying to your kids? It's OK to break the law?"

Russ Sabella, professor of counseling at FGCU and an expert on internet privacy issues, says he agrees with the federal law that effectively prevents kids ages 13 and under from joining Facebook.

He says kids that age don't have the maturity to know what information is too sensitive to share.

"For instance, if they share we're going out of town for a week, that could make it easy for a thief to rob their house," said Sabella.

Sabella also points out there are other risks associated with Facebook many parents don't realize, including viruses, identity theft, inappropriate content, and access to hate speech, in addition to concerns about communicating with pedophiles or adult strangers.

For now, experts agree it's up to parents to police their kids on the internet.
 

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