Facebook is not suitable for children
Facebook has a 13-year age limit but many children younger than this wish to be part of the online community. How should parents handle this?
Follow the age limits
Kids and Media doesn't recommend Facebook as a social arena for children under the age of 13, but would rather suggest they use channels like MSN to keep in touch with friends.
"We recommend that parents have a general rule about adhering to age limits. Speak with your children about why there are age limits on media contents and services and teach them to respect this," says Oystein Samnoen, Director of Kids and Media.
Facebook is very popular amongst young people and adults. For many teenagers Facebook is a natural part of their every day social life. However, young people old enough to have a profile on this webpage should have a constructively critical attitude towards what they do in this social network.
Misuse of personal information
Facebook has a policy about appearing as yourself and not as a virtual person. The personal profiles have real names, pictures and other information.
Kids and Media dissuade children up to 12-13 years of age from sharing personal information on digital arenas where it can be misused by strangers.
"Facebook is made for young people and adults, and is not meant for children. Both language use and a culture of sharing your opinions, pictures and video clips are factors that mean children's needs will not be not considered. Net communities in general give an increased risk of bullying, harassment, spreading of rumours and strangers being able to get in touch," Samnoen says.
The information a child gives "in confidence" to their friends on his/her profile, can be copied and used in totally unrelated context, continues Samnoen. This is difficult for children to comprehend and relate to.Increased commercialism
Kids and Media anticipates a growing commercialising of Facebook. For example, the forum already contains games that cost money to play. Concepts like these can be tempting for children.
"Children are impulsive and have varying maturity when it comes to understanding the consequences of money used on virtual services," says Samnoen.
There is uncertainty connected with the framework around personal information published on Facebook. The net community legally owns the contents published, and we don't know whether this will be cause for misuse in the future. Because of this, Kids and Media recommends an attitude of "better safe than sorry" on the behalf of our children.
Information is stored
The Internet is limitless and it is very difficult to impose mutual legislation for all users worldwide. The online community offers the opportunity to share a large amount of information, be it about faith, thoughts, health, marital status or sexuality. The user decides whether or not to share information like this, but it is problematic that children might share these things when we know that the owner stores all information. Facebook doesn't give any information about how long this type of information is stored. Facebook also reserves the right to use published images and video clips, and say very little about whom the information is shared with.
Parents should be present
Even though Kids and Media doesn't recommend Facebook for children under the age of 13, we are aware that many children under this age have a Facebook profile. Many of the profiles are probably made without the parents knowing about it.
"If parents decide to let their children open a profile on Facebook, we strongly recommend that the parents guide their children. You should choose "Limited Profile" to avoid the page being open to everyone, and to avoid picture close-ups of children. I encourage parents to now and then have a discussion with their children about the responsibility of editing; what to do, what is okay to publish and who to add to the Friends List," Samnoen says in closing.