Do you have Facebook? Do your kids have Facebook? Did you know that it is against the law for children under the age of 13 to create an online profile that collects their personal information?
In the last couple of weeks I have read a number of articles and such regarding this interesting phenomena (I call it that because what we all do online is still a phenomena) of parents knowingly letting their underage children create a Facebook account or looking the other way.
This article on ChurchMag entitled “Breaking the Law to Be on Facebook” is worth the read if you want to know what the law really is all about as well as what the Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, thinks about the particular restriction.
It is legally verboten — by the Children’s Online Protection Act of 1998 — for a website to collect personal information or track the cybertrail of anyone younger than 13, without parental consent. Rather than create software to prevent digital tracking, most sites insist that users be of age. Many general-interest, multigenerational social media websites — like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter — solve the problem by requiring that all users be at least 13 years old.
Still, kids will be kids. And recently it has come to light that millions of young people are flouting the rules to create accounts on the social networking sites. According to the New York Times, a 2009 survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project reported that 38 percent of 12-year-olds in the United States participate in social networks. And in June 2011, Consumer Reports estimated that about 7.5 million people who use Facebook are younger than 13.
So what do you think? Is the law good or not good? Is it out-of-date (or out-of-touch)? Should parents allow their children to skirt the rules?