Viewpoint: Kids Can Do Without Facebook
by Leslie Meredith, TechNewsDaily Senior Writer
June 06 2012 05:34 PM ET
CREDIT: Shutterstock: Elena Schweitzer
One of the biggest fights I had with my daughter was when she asked to get her ears pierced. She was 12. I said no, not until you're 16. We split the difference at 14. But we never argued about seeing an R-rated movie or when she could get her license — there were already rules in place.
Social media has rules — actually it's federal law, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) — that give special protection to children under age 13. Until now, they have made it onerous for social media companies to allow youngsters to participate. According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook is testing ways to let young kids join that would conform with COPPA. [Twitter and Facebook Grapple with Age Limits ]
Already, several congressmen have sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg demanding answers to 14 questions, which mostly addressed targeting ads to kids.
"While Facebook provides important social and entertainment opportunities, we strongly believe that children and their personal information should not be viewed as a source of revenue," Reps. Edward J. Markey and Joe Barton, co-chairmen for the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, wrote in their letter to Zuckerberg.
That ship has sailed. Have these men seen Saturday morning kids' TV? Ad targeting is nothing new for children — what else could explain the popularity of Xia-Xia Hermit Crabs? But the dangers to children on public networks are bigger than an onslaught of advertising.
Even if Facebook established a solid parental permission form as required by COPPA, it still doesn't address the perils of social media that young children can't handle — their older siblings have enough problems with cyberbullying and inappropriate advances. And are your kids ready for real-time video chat with nearby strangers? [Airtime Offers Video Chat with Facebook Friends and Strangers ]
Children are already tempted to sit in front of a computer instead of going outside to play with their friends. Call me old-fashioned, but I'd much rather have a houseful of kids running around than one child glued to a screen.