In a move which could stir a huge controversy, Facebook is considering development of options to open up social networking access for children under 13 years, under parental guidance.
The social networking giant is developing technology to link children’s accounts to those of their parents, while giving authority to parents to have control on whom they add as friends.
At present, Facebook bans under-13s from joining the site due to reasons such as cyber-bullying, child pornography and trolling. But many surveys already show that many under-13s get on Facebook anyway, by lying about their age while completing the application form.
The social network is aware that under-13s do manage to join, and has a page offering advice to parents to help them educate their children about potential issues in the online world.
Facebook has been at the receiving end of multiple critics. Privacy concerns have prompted it to submit itself to regular audits by US officials. Concerns have also been raised about the company’s profitability, after a recent initial public offering saw the share price rapidly fall.
The company derives significant revenue from hosting online gaming sites, like Zynga. Such games would likely appeal to many children, meaning allowing them to access Facebook could clear up worries about its business model.
But critics and parents are worried about the direct effect of a site like Facebook on young children, especially when there have already been reports of cyber bullying incidents among older children already allowed to use Facebook.
Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has said publicly in the past that he thinks children under 13 should be allowed to use Facebook. “That will be a fight we take on at some point,” Facebook quoted him as saying, citing older news reports.