Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, wants to battle legal regulation that prohibits children under 13 from joining the social network website.
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) does not permit anyone under the age of 13 to sign up for an account on a website, such as Facebook, that collects information about its users.
At a recent NewSchools Summit in California, which focused on innovation in education, Zuckerberg said he believes that social websites can help with education.
“Education is clearly the biggest thing that will drive how the economy improves over the long term,” he said. “We spend a lot of time talking about this.”
The 27-year-old billionaire’s passion for education reform has put him on a path to change the current COPPA law.
“That will be a fight we take on at some point,” Zuckerberg said. “My philosophy is that for education you need to start at a really, really young age.”
Although Facebook has yet to figure out how kids that young would use the site, Zuckerberg assures attendees that the company would use precautions to protect younger kids from harm, reports FoxNews.
Zuckerberg says that “because of the restrictions we haven’t begun this learning process,” but by lifting the COPPA law, Facebook would “start to learn what works.”
Even with all the legalities, studies have shown that a large number of underage users are already on Facebook, with as many as 7.5 million kids under the age of 13 using the social network service.
An online survey of about 1,000 adults conducted by Liberty Mutual’s Responsibility Project revealed that the number of U.S. parents allowing their 10-12 year-olds to have an account on Facebook and MySpace has doubled in one year.
In addition, 17% of U.S. parents surveyed say that they did not have a problem with a pre-teen child using a social media site, compared to eight percent from last year.
Furthermore, 11 percent of parents polled admitted to using social media sites on behalf of a young child or infant, reports FoxNews.
Just last week, Consumer Reports found that 5 million children under the age of 10 are currently on Facebook.
In response, Facebook released the following statement:
“Recent reports have highlighted just how difficult it is to implement age restrictions on the Internet and that there is no single solution to ensuring younger children don’t circumvent a system or lie about their age.
We appreciate the attention that these reports and other experts are giving this matter and believe this will provide an opportunity for parents, teachers, safety advocates and Internet services to focus on this area, with the ultimate goal of keeping young people of all ages safe online.”
Jeff Fox, technology editor at Consumer Reports told FoxNews.com that “a million kids were bullied on Facebook in the last year. A 10-year-old is not well-equipped to deal with those things.”
Despite Facebook’s acknowledgement that kids should not use the service and currently prohibits access to those under 13, Fox says that the age verification process is weak and that “it is too easy to lie about your age.”
Instead, he says Facebook could use existing age verification services such as Privo, or require a parent to first prove their age using credit card verification and then vouching for the child’s age.
The Internet can be a dangerous place for minors who are inexperienced and lack judgment, making it easy for potential sexual predators to target them in online chat as well as cyberbullying.
Last week, Zuckerberg received heavy criticism from a U.S. Senate committee for failing to protect children from predators because the company did not employ enough people to review posts, reports TechRadar.
At the committee hearing, U.S. Senator John Rockefeller wanted Facebook to defend itself, saying, “I want you to defend your company here because I don’t know how you can.”
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