Three Facts:

  1. The minimum age to legally sign-up for Facebook is 13.
  2. An underage child must falsify their birthdate when they sign-up for Facebook otherwise the system immediately rejects their sign-up attempt.
  3. 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.