Why have a rule that can't be enforced? Facebook and its under-age users
Facebook’s rules dictate that the minimum age for membership is 13. But many children well below that age are already seasoned users of the social networking site and now DigitalME, the UK education social enterprise has launched a national debate to raise the issue for children, families and educators.
And to kick it off children from Riversdale Primary School, in Wandsworth, south London, interviewed Facebook director of policy Richard Allan to ask whether children under 13 would ever be allowed official membership.
“We’ve said publicly that there is a debate around that and we think it’s a debate for everybody in society to think about,” replied Richard Allan in the interview which can be viewd on YouTube (below). “We provide a service and today we think it’s appropriate for 13+.
“For a long time people said younger children should not have mobile phones and now most parents feel comfortable. Over time, people feel more comfortable with younger people using it [new technology] and we’re listening to discussions but we think it’s for everybody – for parents, children, everybody to think about, not just Facebook.”
“We don’t want anyone to lie about their date of birth but if you are doing anything online, discuss it with your parents, take advice - they are the best people to keep you safe.”
DigitalME’s Facebook Age Debate hub has created online space and resources for people who want to get involved and a series of online polls will be conducted to record debate feedback.The campaign is a response to questions posed by children and teachers who took DigitalME’s Safe online safety course, and the hub was created after the Richard Allan interview.
“It’s very clear to us that the debate on allowing under-13s on to Facebook urgently needs a focal point, a hub where all views can be expressed freely, knowledge shared and new connections made,” said Tim Riches, CEO of DigitalME. “That’s why we decided to launch the online Facebook Age Debate hub. Without this focal point, the debate will remain dispersed and ineffective.
“EU Kids Online, Nielson and other independent research indicates that while the official joining age on Facebook is 13, there are millions of young people from age 7 up who regularly use Facebook to connect with their friends.”
The DigitalME team believes that every school pupil in the UK has the right to learn with new technologies, including social media, and to be taught the principles of how to engage safely online at an early age. Teachers and parents should be supported so they understand the opportunities and challenges around social networking for young people.
Tim Riches says: “Rather than ignoring the problem, we should make sure that we equip children to engage safely online. We need to address this and show teachers and parents how they can guide their young people to make the best use of social networking.”
DigitalME is a not-for-profit enterprise based in Leeds. Founder Tim Riches is an experienced online education professional who previously launched and developed RadioWaves with his brother Mark.
While DigitalME focuses on all aspects of online education and its current programme, Safe, offers practical activities to develop primary pupils' skills, self-confidence and safety awareness when using social network sites. Safe teaches these skills to teachers and young people across the UK, backed by partners the Nominet Trust, ChildNet International, Radiowaves, and i-Online.