Is 13 to Young For Facebook? 2011 Disney Social Media Moms

Last month, I attended The Disney Social Media Moms Celebration at The Grand Floridian Hotel in Walt Disney World.  I was thrilled to be there for a second time and knew I would be impressed and learn something meaningful from every facet of the event.

Enter Matt Jacobson, Head of Market Development for Facebook.  After sharing some basics about how Facebook works for small business and the 4 steps to success they hope social media moms will follow, he opened the floor to questions.  I took the opportunity to ask why Facebook doesn’t do a better job policing kids who are under the age of 13 on Facebook and why not raise the age to 16 or older.  He answered that the age is really an international benchmark and that its simply too massive to police, but went on to share his personal approach to allowing his own children to join Facebook after the age of 13 and provided some great internet safety tips for kids.

  1. His children had to give him a compelling case to join Facebook, such as staying in touch with friends in activities who do not also attend their schools or cousins.
  2. When they registered, he made their profiles entirely invisible.
  3. All friend requests had to come via email to his personal email account to screen each one prior to their acceptance.
  4. He is also a friend on their page.
Little did I know how timely this interview would be, as upon our return from
Disney, on March 23rd CNN reported that Facebook kicks off 20,000 kids daily who are underage yet 3 million underage children remain. So here is where I’m left asking questions that could take care of this easily.
  1. Why doesn’t Facebook require that parents everywhere follow the same process as Mr. Jacobson?  If it’s what employees require knowing what they do about the platform, then they should take on the responsibility of teaching the rest of us how to use Facebook wisely teaching internet safety tips for kids as we go.
  2. Why doesn’t Facebook kick off the parents who signed up those kids when they kick off the kids?  Accountablity is 2 fold here.  If I allow my teen to have a party and there is alcohol involved, I will be held accountable for underage drinking.  If I knowingly break the rule of signing my child up under the age of 13 and they are discovered, I should also be held accountable.
  3. What does it say to our children when we look at them and say “Sure honey, I’ll let you get that account even though the rules say 13.  It doesn’t apply to you.”
What do you think?  Should parents be held accountable for registering their under age child?  What happens to our kids if we constantly bend the rules to meet their request?
Disclaimer: Included in my paid registration for The Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, I received for myself and my family discounted accommodations, part tickets, meals, and attendance to special events.  I was not asked to share my experience and my opinions are entirely my own.  I am a proud alumni of The Walt Disney World College Program and consider this company the standard for excellence.  I am honored to have an opportunity to share their pixie dust with you now. Thanks for indulging my lifelong love affair with a brand that promises to wow you at every turn.

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