Currently, children under 13 are not allowed to have Facebook accounts. The reason for this is that websites are not allowed to keep information about children by law (in the US where Facebook is based).
This could all be about to change according to the Wall Street Journal. Facebook is apparently testing technology that would allow children to participate in the site with an account attached to their parent/guardian.
I cannot think of a worse thing for Facebook to be spending their time on.
Children under 13 years old should be left to be children, not posting about what they like online and who their friends are. How many people that you were friends with at 12 are you still Friends with? If you’re lucky 1 or 2. Most friends at that age are a coincidence of proximity (school, sports team, neighbours and family friends).
Kids shouldn’t be worrying about labels, or comparing themselves with others. They should be living in the moment without a care and just being kids. Playing outside and with other (actually present) kids.
So what’s Facebook’s angle?
Advertising of course! Advertising to kids and “tweens” is a hot market. Just look at the commercial TV channels when kids shows are on. They are bombarding kids with ads for toys, food, drinks and activities. And do you know the sad thing? It works!
I’m sure you all know that if your kids begs enough you eventually give in to what they’re asking for at least some of the time, and advertisers know this.
So why is Facebook chasing this market? They’re getting closer to saturation of the teen/adult internet population with purported numbers close to 1 billion active accounts. This doesn’t sit well for growth, which is what a public company is all about. They know that if they can get children on their site and can target ads at them, then their growth number can continue to rise for a while longer.
Now I know that young kids are probably all over Facebook by simply lying about their age. The benefit of knowing the exact age of the kids though is that they can target the ads more effectively. Targeting a 4 year old is very different to targeting a 10 year old.
Facebook would very much prefer to know to the day how old your kids are, especially when their account is linked to yours. Then they can target those same ads at you too.