Vesta Digital Blog

Social Media and Children

Posted on: April 2, 2010

Social Media and ChildrenFacebook’s audience keeps getting bigger. It keeps getting younger, too. Children as young as eight are now signing up and logging on. A recent article in Telegraph UK reports some sobering news from a survey conducted by Ofcom, the media watchdog.

Ofcom Survey

Ofcom said that one in five children between eight and 12 years old use social media sites such as Facebook, Bebo or MySpace. This – inspite of the fact that these sites have an age limit of 13. One in six parents don’t know their children are on social networks. And 37 percent of home internet users aged between five and seven visited Facebook in October 2009. These figures are sure to spark a debate about how Facebook and other sites police the age of their users because there is no age verification process.

Facebook Under Fire

Facebook recently came under criticism from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Center because it refused to introduce the CEOP abuse reporting button, which is intended to make it easy for young people to report inappropriate behavior online.

Graham Cluley, an internet safety expert, said: “It does matter that children as young as eight are on social networking sites. At that age they are not skeptical and very easily taken in. There are some pretty adult things on Facebook, for instance, not just racy content but scams and predators.”

Earlier this month, Facebook rejected calls from child protection campaigners to include an anti-paedophile “panic” button on its site. Facebook executives said adding the button on the main section of the site could deter anxious users from coming forward. Calls for the button to be placed prominently were made following the conviction of a serial rapist for the murder of a British school girl who met the killer on Facebook.

Mr Cluley added: “I think Facebook should add the button for its own reputation. But if truth be told it would not have prevented the Ashleigh Hall (the school girl) murder. The problem is that she thought she was talking to a fellow teenager, not an adult predator. And that’s why it is so important for youngsters to be careful.”

Parents Responsibility?

Facebook said it was the responsibility of parents to monitor their children online just as they do in the real world. A spokesman said: “Our policy is very clear, Facebook requires its users to be at least 13 years old before they can create an account. Anyone who wants to report an underage user can do so easily on the site and we will promptly remove the account, as this breaches our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, which is the governing document for Facebook.”

You can read Harry Wallop’s article in Telegraph UK by going here.

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