UK Facebook director admits underage users can’t be stopped from signing up

Mentioned by The Guardian earlier today, the director of policy for Facebook UK and Ireland basically stated that Facebook has no algorithm or specific process in place for identifying and deactivating accounts that are being operated by children thirteen and under. According to a study cited within the article, more than thirty-three percent of UK children between the ages of 9 to 12 have an active Facebook profile, likely used on a daily basis. Taking a global view, the research indicates that at least a fourth of all children between the ages of 9 to 12 that have computer access also have a Facebook account. 

facebook parentsSpeaking at the Oxford Media Convention today, policy director Simon Milner stated “Facebook does have a rule that users have to be over 13, as does YouTube, which not a lot of people know. It is not because we think that Facebook is unsafe but because of a US law about children’s online privacy. So we have it as a global rule.”

Sonia Livingstone, a professor of social psychology of the London School of Economics, also spoke at the Oxford Media Convention in regards to underage Facebook use. Livingstone indicated that parents are partly to blame for allowing their child to open a Facebook account at such a young age. Regarding stricter guidance, she stated “If parents would only say to young children, ‘don’t go on Facebook’, we have found that they listen. Teenagers don’t, but younger children do.”

Both Milner and Livingstone were concerned about Facebook’s age filter in regards to search. If a child sets up their profile and inputs an age of at least 18, the child’s profile will appear in the Facebook profile search function allowing strangers to view friend connections, profile picture and other private data. Milner did state that the social network does have a firm policy on bullying as well as grooming and will punish users for infractions expediently. 

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