Underage social networking
We have written a lot recently
about the dilemma parents face when tweens or even younger children
want to set up a social networking page. Although Facebook, MySpace and
the other big networks all have 13-and-older sign-up policies, many
parents quietly go along with the request, seeing an opportunity to take
control of the account and teach important lessons about online safety.
the comments we have received, parents seem evenly divided: half
believing that early sign-up is a good idea, while the rest ask what
example do we show our kids if we tell them it’s OK to lie about their
Now, new research
from Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing group reveals how widespread the
incidence of underage social networking has become. In a survey of
1,051 U.S. children aged 5-17 with access to the Internet, 38% were
reported to have opened their first social networking account before the
age of 13. Keep in mind that the survey was conducted among parents
rather than the children themselves, so the number is likely to be
significantly higher when you factor in accounts that parents don’t know
Of those children under 13 that have social networking
accounts, 84% use either Facebook or MySpace. Among these accounts,
approximately 9 out of 10 were opened with a parent’s permission.
parents may be complicit in allowing underage social networking, they
do so with their eyes wide open. Parents overwhelmingly believe (95%)
that they are primarily responsible for keeping their children safe when
using social networks, and most (67%) help set up their children’s
accounts and continue to monitor usage.
When it comes to assessing
the risks associated with social networking, parents are more concerned
about sexual predators and identity theft than they are about
cyberbullying. This despite the fact that cyberbullying is far more
prevalent on social networks than other risky behavior.
might be discouraging news for the security software industry, parents
tend to monitor their child’s behavior by “friending” them (56%),
checking their browser history (52%), or by logging into their account
(49%). Parental control software is used to monitor social networking
activity in just 10% of households.
Comment by Kerstin, posted 11/8/2010, 12:18 AM:
My 14 year old joined Facebook just recently. I allowed her because she told me she just wants to connect with her friends and with our long distant relatives. Now, my 10 year old wants to have one too. Do you think I made a right decision allowing her? And if it is alright to allow my 10 year old also. I am worried since I have heared many online threats on the news but I also think that with proper guidance, my kids could learn responsibility. Opinions?