Facebook is building a service that would allow children younger than age 13 to use their service under parental supervision. This move will definitely have a controversial impact. Facebook will be able to generate additional revenue, but parents will be concerned about safety.
Some of the safety measurements that Facebook is testing include connecting childrens’ accounts to their parents’. The parents can decide whom their kids can friend and what applications that they can use. The under-13 features would allow Facebook and their partners to charge parents for games and other entertainment.
Facebook currently does not allow users under age 13, but many kids lie about their age to create an account. Facebook is then vulnerable to a federal law that requires websites to obtain parental consent before collecting data from children.
“Recent reports have highlighted just how difficult it is to enforce age restrictions on the Internet, especially when parents want their children to access online content and services,” said Facebook in response to questions about the new technology. “We are in continuous dialogue with stakeholders, regulators and other policy makers about how best to help parents keep their kids safe in an evolving online environment.”
The data collected by Facebook led to a 20-year settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over accusations that it misled users about how they use personal information. Facebook acknowledged making mistakes so they agreed to regular audits over privacy.
Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler has been working with Facebook to find ways to protect children under age 13. “We would like to see Facebook create a safe space for kids to [use the site], a sanctuary, with the extra protections needed to ensure a safe, healthy, and age appropriate environment,” said Gansler. However some parents prefer that Facebook should focus on explaining to parents and children that Facebook is not appropriate for use by children.
Facebook would likely work with Disney to build applications that are tailored for children. Disney acquired kids social network Club Penguin in August 2007 for $350 million.
Around 12% of Facebook’s $3.7 billion 2011 revenues came from Zynga’s interactive games like Farmville and Cityville. Facebook is still dealing with a pending review with the Federal Trade Commission of the implementation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998. This Act regulates what personal information websites can collect from kids.