Opinion: Age-limits

POSTED: 06/5/12 11:54 AM

Facebook has some policies that actually make sense while they are highly impractical at the same time. At least, that’s what Facebook wants everybody to believe. The truth is of course that the social network site does not feel like investing in policies that really make sense.
The matter at hand is the age limit for Facebook-access. When you’re younger than thirteen you are not allowed to have a Facebook account, but Mark Zuckerberg does not seem to have this under control. The American consumer magazine Consumers Report wrote last year that there are 7.5 million children younger than thirteen on Facebook and that five million of them are even younger than ten.
The kids simply lie about their age – and boom – they’re in business. Now Facebook is testing a system to link children’s profiles to the ones of their parents.
Why on earth this would be necessary only Mark Zuckerberg understands. Obviously he wants those million of kids on Facebook. It’s a market baby. All those kids are gonna download truckloads of applications, especially games.
Politicians and youth organizations have criticized Facebook for letting such young users on the site. And it would be so easy to keep them out: One phone call to the Isle of Man in the UK, where the headquarters of gambling site Pokerstars is located, will give Facebook all the ideas it needs to enforce age limits. The poker site was legalized in France for instance after implementing a foolproof system to verify the age of account holders.
Instead, Facebook is citing “recent reports” that indicate how difficult it is to implement age-limits on the internet. We take that for what it is: hogwash.
While this is doable, nothing prevents parents of course from opening an account and then letting their kids play on it – but that is indeed beyond anybody’s control.
We figure that kids who want to be on Facebook and don’t have parents who are holding an account are going to be unhappy with the link the site has in mind.
What we find even more irritating than this age-limit discussion is the near impossibility of getting rid of an account once you’ve decided you’ve had enough. These must be millions of dormant accounts, but Facebook includes them happily in its so-called family of users. And now the site wants to enslave young children by offering them the illusion of a “safe environment.”

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