- The minimum age to legally sign-up for Facebook is 13.
- An underage child must falsify their birthdate when they sign-up for Facebook otherwise the system immediately rejects their sign-up attempt.
- A recent study shows that nearly half of all 12 year-olds in the U.S. are using such sites, ignoring their minimum age requirement.
Did you know that the minimum age for Facebook was 13 years old? Did you know that Facebook rejects all sign-ups where the user-entered birthdate equates to an age of under 13 and instead displays the following error message to the underage child:
“Sorry, you are ineligible to sign up for Facebook.“
The only way for the underage child to ‘force’ their sign-up is to go back and lie about their birthdate so that the system will think that they are at least 13 years old.
There are different ways of looking at this situation:
- Some parents might not care at all (e.g. “The rules don’t apply to my kid, they can do whatever they want to.”)
- Some parents may think that it’s ok and may view it as being acceptable for their child to lie to get around Facebook’s “annoying” age limitation… after all, “everybody’s doing it.”
- Others may not have known about the minimum age and that the ONLY way for an under-13-year-old child to have received a Facebook account was to lie about their birthdate when they initially signed up.
The Facebook system provides a large variety of benefits to almost 600 million users worldwide regardless of a person’s demographics. But it is also a target-rich environment for predators. One might wonder how streetsmart most young teenagers might be to be able to detect and handle a child predator that might make contact with them online. It’s difficult to know. What about how prepared a preteen child might be?
Facebook is actively attempting to detect underage children and is removing approximately 20,000 of them per DAY for child safety and privacy reasons (link to article).
Obviously, these issues are something for all parents of young children to consider and decide. Different parents will view things differently.
My view may be different than everyone else’s, but my children have known for more than a year now that no one gets a Facebook account until the day of their 13th birthday (and one of my kids is counting down the days in happy anticipation). I also don’t want to create a feeling in their minds that it is sometimes ok to ignore and bypass rules to get what you want and other times it isn’t. How will they know when it is “ok” to bypass the rules? How does that set them up for future decision making? I don’t know, but I’m not comfortable with that approach. So for us, we have chosen to respect the rules and not attempt to bypass them by entering fradulent data to gain premature access.
Many might disagree and that’s ok. Feel free to state your opinion in the comments.
Your stance is something I’d 100% support. It’s a slippery slope when we suggest to our kids that some rules are just nitpicky and we can bypass them. Discretionary bypassing of rules is subjective; do we really want kids to disregard rules they don’t like? My husband and I tell our kids that rules are set up to protect, not to hinder.
Back when facebook first hit mainstream, they were unique in that they wanted people to only create one real account about the real person using real info. This was contrary to most sites where a user could create any persona about themselves that they wanted, even multiple accts about themselves or aliases. Facebook wanted you to just be yourself, using your real name, etc. It is the same today. Their terms include the following two points that apply here: “You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook” and “You will not use Facebook if you are under 13.”
There are other options. Many people don’t know that you can just disable the display of your birthdate (age) in facebook. Go to your profile, click the “Edit Profile” link, then beside your birthdate there is a dropdown box. Select either “Show only month & day in my profile” or “Don’t show my birthday in my profile.” These options let you enter true and legal info and also let you suppress its disclosure in your profile info.
Regarding the location info, it is optional info. It does not need to be entered. A few years ago, facebook let you specify a location or “region” to be associated with people from that geographic area, but they have since discontinued that approach. You do not need to enter any location info, e.g. for Current City or for Hometown, etc.
I know some parents who have their children lie about their age and location regardless of whether they are over 13 just to make themselves look older so as to push away predatory interest. My niece was 15 when she started Facebook but she looked 23 based on her profile. If you are over 13, is it a violation of terms to indicate an older age? Is it a good idea anyhow?