Up to 3.6m Facebook users may be underage

The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA) federal regulation states that a person must be aged 13 or older in order to use websites such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, however there are fears that millions of users are below this legal age with, technology firm, ComScore estimating that up to 3.6m Facebook users are under the age of 12. "Not only are kids lying about their age, but more often than not, parents teach them to lie about their age," said Microsoft researcher, Danah Boyd.

While lying about age is nothing new, the current concerns are that children are signing up to these sites, mostly to copy their peers and family. It is claimed that parents are even helping their children, while considering the law an obstacle which blocks their children from socialising and participating in social media. Media websites find it hard to verify a person age while keeping their sites active. "We are not burying our head in the sand," said the chief security officer at Facebook.

One such example is that of 44 year old Cristina Flores, she allowed her 11 year old son to sign up on Facebook without realising that age restrictions existed. "It’s not like there’s a legal age limit for being on the Internet," she said. Jake, her son, told the site he was 15 years old. It appears this is not uncommon with half of his class doing the same thing.

The former chief of security at MySpace, Hemanshu Nigam, told the NY Times the story of an 11 year old boy who accepted a friend request from a girl in his class, the only issue was that 'her' profile was fake. The boys pictures ended up on a sex themed website with some very distasteful comments. "It can be a living nightmare for an 11-year-old who just wanted to hang out with his friends" he said.

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maybe someone daring could direct us to a fool proof way of raising kids. until that happens, to say this way or that way is the right way to teach/raise a kid is redundant. there are many common and unique ways to do both, so who is the definitive individual to dictate child rearing? simple, NO ONE.

A friend of mine allowed her 9 year old son to have a facebook account and when I told her about the rules etc when she signed him up for it (yes she actually signed him up, not himself) she just said yes, but I have facebook and meet loads of people so why shouldnt he use it too?

I asked if he was supervised and she said no he has his xbox in his room and his pc in his room so she cant be with him all the time and he uses both for facebook.

At the same time, unrelated, she buys him all the 18 rated games etc he wants, which I know is her prerogative, but I personally think that is wrong too.

'"It's not like there's a legal age limit for being on the Internet," she said.'

Thinking like this worries me. Not having an explicit rule about age and internet access does not mean that you as a parent, are exempt from using common sense in your parenting.

Duality said,
'"It's not like there's a legal age limit for being on the Internet," she said.'

Thinking like this worries me. Not having an explicit rule about age and internet access does not mean that you as a parent, are exempt from using common sense in your parenting.

I was thinking that there actually is a sort of law - this one mentioned in the article. They should know their kids aren't allowed to share information or sign up and use these services. The age limit is generally 13, unless the service otherwise explicitly allows them otherwise. That is the law.

FB should provide an approximation test to verify the users' age and profiles of those who failed it must be under restriction. Eg. only Friends of friends for search.

There isn't really anything facebook have to do considering they already have legal requirtements in place. Therefore I wouldn't really class this as news, but parents need to wake up and realise with the internet the danger is on your doorstep. Expecially with sites like twitter and facebook, which if used incorrectly could jepodise a child's safety.

Will be interesting to see what extra measures facebook take on the matter though.

Children that are under 13 shouldn't really be on Facebook i agree, but unfortunately it does happen and it will continue to do so.

I've been using EBay since I was 12. I've now been a member for almost 10 years and I still have 100% positive feedback. So the age thing is nothing new with kids signing up anyways.

What exactly is your point? That it's okay to intentionally breach a contract (in some countries, even breaching the law), because (0) either they can't do anything to you, because you're underage, but just to your legal guardian(s)/parent(s); (1) it's okay since you're really, really, really mature.

Edited by tiagosilva29, Mar 13 2011, 8:34am :

Tin foil hats warning: I think they need to do an age verfication for all applicatans requiring SSN at the time of signup, if you are under 18, you will need your parents email and SSN for verification as well. So technically you are tied to your parents account until you are 18, a legal adult; speaking for America only. They should have custom checks and balances specifically for each country. Also incorporate some of BigYoSpeck's suggestions. I know this might seem a little excessive, but you can't solve huge problems without take huge leaps with security measures.

Side note: I will punch my children in the face everytime they see the FB logo or mention FB, that way everytime they think and/or read about FB their faces will hurt and that should help them stay away /jk

I don't think it's a huge deal. As with other related issues, my opinion is that parents should take care for / educate their children well enough. Government regulations, especially on something as borderless as the Internet and concerning something as unenforceable as COPPA, can never even help with parenting. Don't want your underage child to go on Facebook? Teach him not to and / or block the site at home. (I personally don't think underage use of Facebook is an issue though.)

3.6m is highly underestimated, likely to be much more!
and then there is the other dilemma adults posing as 13 years old...


To be honest I don't understand the restriction seeing as kids will then just lie to be a part. Facebook should just faceup to the usage by minors and incorporate it correctly. You should need a parent to hold an account to verify your own, all friend requests should have to be cleared by the parent, all inappropriate material blocked and usage based timers so that they can only use it for so many hours a day.

BigYoSpeck said,
To be honest I don't understand the restriction seeing as kids will then just lie to be a part. Facebook should just faceup to the usage by minors and incorporate it correctly. You should need a parent to hold an account to verify your own, all friend requests should have to be cleared by the parent, all inappropriate material blocked and usage based timers so that they can only use it for so many hours a day.

How does that help ? Most kids just lie about their age to get one without their parents knowing/caring.. you think that would change if FB offered one with parental oversight ?

Ryoken said,

How does that help ? Most kids just lie about their age to get one without their parents knowing/caring.. you think that would change if FB offered one with parental oversight ?

I'm sure some parents are that lax, but for those that aren't a minors account option would be great. My brothers computer has Windows accounts setup for all 4 of his children with the Microsoft Parental Controls sending all browsing data to my Live account so I can let him know if they are up to anything they shouldn't be (he's not that clued up and dsylexic which is why he defers it to me), his OpenDNS is also set to block all the gaming domains like zynga but that only lets him control so much. Giving facebook an option to allow a guardian monitor usage would be welcomed by many parents who do bother to supervise their childrens net usage.

how would these creepy old men even get ahold of this 11 year old's account? and then fake the identity of a girl in his class?

Frankly why would you want your under 13 year old kid on facebook anyway?

Do people not actually leave there houses anymore?? Heck 4 years ago when I was 13 me and my mates would go down to the river or lake and do stuff, or we would go down to one of the blokes shed's (everyone had one) and build stuff. I remember one guy use to make model steam engines at aircraft engines. great fun.

one winter we tried to build a cannon. our mothers were not impressed.

Seriously. why the hell would you want a >13 year old kid on the internet anyway? school assignments at the most. I am pretty pro tech but some parents disgust me with the way they let kids use the internet etc.

Auzeras said,
Frankly why would you want your under 13 year old kid on facebook anyway?

Do people not actually leave there houses anymore?? Heck 4 years ago when I was 13 me and my mates would go down to the river or lake and do stuff, or we would go down to one of the blokes shed's (everyone had one) and build stuff. I remember one guy use to make model steam engines at aircraft engines. great fun.

one winter we tried to build a cannon. our mothers were not impressed.

Seriously. why the hell would you want a >13 year old kid on the internet anyway? school assignments at the most. I am pretty pro tech but some parents disgust me with the way they let kids use the internet etc.


Not everyone lives that close to their school yard friends.. I know when I was in HS I was between 1-2hrs bike ride away from most of them.. ( I had classmates closer, but they weren't my friends lol ).. Even now at work severial of my fellow employees are 1+hr away from here.. Just going and hanging out is fun, but it's also nice to be able to "meet up" online through fb and such.

Auzeras said,
Seriously. why the hell would you want a >13 year old kid on the internet anyway?
I don't think that means what you think it means.

Gee I wonder how many pedophiles on facebook as well. They can't go arresting them either for the kids didn't follow the TOS. /s

I'd say 3.6 million underaged users is grossly understated. Not like it's hard to fake your age or identity on any social site, if you wanted to. Last I heard, Facebook has 500+ million users. I'd say it's more likely around 10% of those users that are underaged. Atleast, considering the popularity of such Facebook games like Farmville or Cityville.

+1. I was signing up on sites long before I was 13. I remember telling Neopets I was 18 when I was just 11. And my parents encouraged me to sign up on Lego.com without a parental email.

Doli said,
I wonder how many underage people have Neowin accounts.

On Neowin you can be underage. The only but is that you must send Neowin a letter done by legal gardians saying that you allow the underage to be on the site.

I find the lack of safety education to be much more worrying than age.
Actually this is far from extremely shocking, it's non-news.

The part of parents helping does have a weird sound tbh, though...

GS:ios

My little brother created a facebook and he's 9. My little sister helped him, as soon as I found out I deleted it, he was being added by random old men. Facebook can be deadly in the wrong hands.

booboo said,
My little brother created a facebook and he's 9. My little sister helped him, as soon as I found out I deleted it, he was being added by random old men. Facebook can be deadly in the wrong hands.

Thats gross, he is lucky to have a protective sibling