Parents Help Kids Lie To Get On Facebook

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Children under 13 years old aren’t supposed to be on Facebook because of privacy laws but, not surprisingly, they’re logging on in droves. And a new study shows that most of these kids’ parents are okay with it. In fact, they’re more than okay with it: A whopping 68% said they helped their underage children set up accounts.

The study, conducted by Harris Interactive, surveyed more than 1,000 parents with children ages 10 to 14. It found that 95% percent of parents whose 10-year-old was on Facebook knew about it. And 78% actually think it’s okay for their child to violate Facebook’s age-restriction law. (This perhaps helps explain why 7.5 million of Facebook’s 20 million users are younger than 13, according to projections from Consumer Report.)

Many people are shocked by these findings but, truth be told, I can’t really understand why. The law exists in the first place not keep away the cyber creeps, as many would believe, but rather because of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which requires websites to obtain “parental consent” before collecting personal information from the under-13 set. The thinking is that this law would protection children from sharing personal information that could be used by companies to sell them products or to by others to exploit them. So it’s more about protecting children from evil marketers than actual perverts.

This is kind of like the 90s equivalent of fake ID (for me, anyway). In Canada, where I’m from, the legal drinking age is 18. So when I used to go on family vacations to Miami, where the legal drinking age is 21, I’d be forced to use my brother’s girlfriend’s old license as ID to get into a South Beach bar on New Year’s Eve.

Never mind that, at age 20, I had already spent two years in college and that I was old enough to vote. The law is the law. And so I used fake ID to get in – with my normally overprotective parents supporting me along the way. I have a feeling that if Facebook were around back then, they’d be first in line to sign me up – so long as they could monitor my online activity. And I think that’s really the key here, that parents are actually aware of what their underage kids are doing on Facebook – and online in general.

Moms, what do you think? Would you help your kids get onto Facebook? Why or why not?

(Photo: George Doyle)

(Photo: George Doyle)