Even if you're a neo-Luddite, your kids almost definitely aren't, especially when it comes to the internet. But it seems that some parents are mistaking the need for kids to learn how to use search engines and online databases properly with the need for 11-year-olds to have Facebook accounts, and it's having some disastrous consequences.
Facebook has a policy that if they discover an account is run by someone under 13-years-old they will "delete that information as quickly as possible," and they strongly recommend that minors over 13 ask their parents before joining the site. But many parents are allowing their kids to lie about their ages in order to post pictures of themselves online and play Scrabulous, or something. “It’s not like there’s a legal age limit for being on the Internet,” one parent told the Times. Except then things like this happen:
The risks for under-age members of social networks are not theoretical. Hemanshu Nigam, the former chief security officer of Myspace, who now runs an Internet safety consulting business, recounted a recent incident from his business. In New York State, he said, an 11-year-old boy accepted a friend request on Facebook from a girl in his class. But the girl’s account was fake, and the person behind it began posting images of the boy on sex-oriented sites, along with nasty comments.
When the boy’s images started showing up in Google searches, the school suspected that he had posted them and summoned his parents. Other children began picking on him.
One study says that by mid-2009, about 38 percent of 12-year-olds in the US were using social networks, and many children's advocacy groups say that companies like Facebook aren't doing enough to crack down. But one San Francisco 9th grader says there's not much they can do. Victoria Lai said she first got on Yahoo! Games when she was in second grade: "I always say I was born in 1986, not 1996, because it’s just one number different. Easy to remember.” Her father said that young people “have to have experience using the Internet. It’s the future. It’s not good to lie, but you can make an exception." Because if your 12-year-old doesn't have Facebook, you'll actually have to talk to them.