Even though Facebook requires users to be at least 13 years old, there are 7.5. million users under that age, most of them not yet 10, according to projections from a "State of the Net" survey conducted by Consumer Reports.
The survey, published in the June issue of Consumer Reports, also found that the accounts of these minors were largely unsupervised by their parents, exposing them to online predators and bullies.
"Despite Facebook's age requirements, many kids are using the site who shouldn't be," Jeff Fox, technology editor for Consumer Reports, said in a release. "What's even more troubling was the finding from our survey that indicated that a majority of parents of kids 10 and under seemed largely unconcerned by their children's use of the site."
Indeed, the survey found that one million children were exposed to online bullying through Facebook in the past year. Use of the site also exposed more than five million U.S. households to virus infections, identity theft and other types of abuse.
To guard against abuse, Consumer Reports recommends parents carefully monitor their children's Facebook accounts, joining their children's circle of friends on the site and either deleting a pre-teen's account or asking Facebook to do so by filling out its "report an underage child" form.
Also, use the site's privacy controls. Roughly one in five adult users said they hadn't, making them more vulnerable to threats. Consumer Reports advices users to set everything you can so that it can only be accessed by people on your friends list. Among the magazine's other recommendations: turn off instant personalization and use apps with caution, both of which can help keep personal information about you from floating around online.
In April, Facebook compared web safety for kids to crossing the street.
"We agree with safety experts that communication between parents/guardians and kids about their use of the Internet is vital," the company said. "Just as parents are always teaching and reminding kids how to cross the road safely, talking about internet safety should be just as important a lesson to learn."
Perhaps kids who aren't yet 13 need to be on Facebook in today's world, but if that's true, then their parents really, really need to make sure they know what they're doing online.
Or perhaps kids shouldn't be allowed to use Facebook until they reach the site's minimum age.
What do you think?Report Typo/Error