Children aged 12 and under could be the next rapt audience for everyone’s favourite social network. Last week the US Patent Office published an application filed by Facebook in 2012 outlining a parent-controlled system which would maintain strict privacy controls.
Currently Facebook screens for underage accounts and removes them, but Consumer Reports estimates there are 5.6 million existing for under 13’s, many encouraged by parents. Is this “pester power” at work? It must be hard to continue to refuse your children access to a site you spend so much time on each day.
While Facebook claims it’s not actively working to build this new system at present, this news does raise some important questions around online safety for kids, cyber bullying and the appropriateness of encouraging them to share their lives online at such an early age. More Bieber? Really?
Thankfully, the beauty of Facebook’s social reciprocity means an influx of tween angst to the site wouldn’t necessarily have a negative impact on other peoples’ enjoyment of it, and it sounds like serious steps are being taken to ensure online safety for youngsters before the patent has a chance of being pushed through.