Bring Facebook Back to College
If Facebook was a bar, it would be the college bar on the corner. You know, the one that doesn’t card and will let you in if you just tell them you’re in some accredited classes online. It is the kind of bar the is prone to fights and gets too rowdy, but most of all, it is the kind of bar that is too crowded.
A recent survey showed that, despite the 13 year old age limit Facebook supposedly follows, that almost 40% of Facebook users under 18 are actually 12 or even younger and 4% of Facebook users under 18 are less than six. Which means that kids aren’t the only ones breaking Facebook rules. Even parents are choosing to brush aside the disclaimer upon registration. And as of May 2011, there were 7.5 million Facebook users violating the terms of service, which prohibit children under 13 from joining.
Facebook claims that it throws out 20,000 users under 13 every day and it probably does. But the amount of time it takes to ferret out information about age and the time it takes to claim you were born before 1999 aren’t even close to equal. It’s far easier for the thousands of kids wanting to get on Facebook to fake their age than it is for Facebook to figure out who is lying and who is just baby-faced.
Facebook wasn’t invented with younger users in mind. As demonstrated in the movie, “The Social Network,” Facebook was created with college students in mind. College students who, while admittedly might not be kindest people on earth, are better equipped to deal with the slings and arrows of cyberbullies from years of experience in the real world than are younger kids.
Studies have shown that bullying is easier than ever with the rise of social networking. It’s not just about Billy not inviting you to his birthday anymore. It’s that Susie, Mary, and Joanna don’t have to look at your face when they tease you. And without the face of the person being attacked, there’s a far greater chance that the teasing isn’t going to stop just because you’re crying. Because they don’t have to see your face, you are dehumanized in the minds of your peers. This allows people to be crueller than ever, and it’s not as though elementary school was easy to begin with.
The laws keeping kids out of Facebook might be changing soon...and will certainly be changing if CEO Mark Zuckerberg, a Harvard dropout, has anything to say about it. Zuckerberg is determined to lobby to defeat the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act under the guise of spreading education about socialization to children. Though “education” might be what he’s billing it under, it’s more likely that Zuckerberg is after a larger clientele. Without a system in place to prevent the inevitable bullying that will follow large-scale movement towards social networking in a group not prepared to deal with the fallout, Zuckerberg is paving the way for a lot of sobbing sons and daughters.
Of course, this article does not intend to take the position that children shouldn’t be allowed on Facebook. Except for, you know, the fact
that it’s illegal. Make sure that you monitor your child’s Facebook activity if they have an account, and cut any problems off at the pass if you see them beginning to develop. And if your child doesn’t have an account, remind them that much like sex, drugs, and rock and roll, there’s plenty of time for Facebook...in college.