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7.5 million Facebook users under the minimum age

Last month, I wrote about how tweens on both sides of the Atlantic were opening Facebook accounts in record numbers, either flaunting the social network’s minimum age requirements on their own or doing so with the tacit approval of their parents.

Now, a new survey published in the June issue of Consumer Reports confirms this growing trend, reporting that as many as 7.5 million U.S. Facebook users are under the minimum age of 13, with more than five million under the age of 10.

The report is consistent with the results of the EU Kids Online study released in April that found 38 percent of 9 to 12-year-old European children are using social-networking sites, with more than one in five having a Facebook presence.

Jeff Fox, technology editor for Consumer Reports, said it was troubling that a majority of parents of kids 10 and under seemed largely unconcerned by their children's use of Facebook.

In a press statement, Consumer Reports said that using Facebook presents children and their friends and family with safety, security and privacy risks. “In the past year, the use of Facebook has exposed more than five million online U.S. households to some type of abuse including virus infections, identity theft, and – for a million children – bullying.”

In a statement issued ahead of the report's release, Facebook said that “recent reports have highlighted just how difficult it is to implement age restrictions on the Internet and that there is no single solution to ensuring younger children don't circumvent a system or lie about their age.”

The company went on to say that “we appreciate the attention that these reports and other experts are giving this matter and believe this will provide an opportunity for parents, teachers, safety advocates, and Internet services to focus on this area, with the ultimate goal of keeping young people of all ages safe online.”

A straw poll of my 11-year-old daughter’s friends from her middle school here in Westchester County, New York supports the Consumer Reports findings. As many as 50 percent of the 6th grade students have Facebook pages, with some boasting 200 or more friends!

That’s not to say that their parents don’t care about their wellbeing; I know first-hand that the overwhelming majority of parents are deeply committed to their family’s online safety. Instead, they are giving in to a rising trend of tech-savvy young kids who have grown up in a smartphone world and see the Internet and Facebook as a natural way to express themselves.

Is your tween on Facebook? What has been your experience? Share your thoughts with The Online Mom!

Comment by Katherine Droguett, posted 12/11/2011, 12:11 AM:

My 13-year-old daughter recently opened her Facebook's account, and so far she's been OK with it. At the beginning, all she wanted was to be logged in interacting with her friends and playing with apps. She was not allowed to spend more than an hour. Now, she logs in a few times during the week but mostly on weekends. She clearly knows the rules and how to act with responsibility. In addition, I am constantly monitoring her activity by checking her security setting and her list of friends.
Comment by Mayerlyn Cordero, posted 12/5/2011, 1:49 PM:

Ver consejo sobre Facebook.
Comment by Sherri...E WA State, posted 9/24/2011, 12:41 AM:

No way is my daughter, 12, going on FB until age 14. She has ADHD and mild Asbergers so wants to make friends with anyone...not safe. We use Facebook's www.togetherville.com for 8-13 yr olds that is parent-controlled.
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