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Friday, April 02, 2010

Lots of underage social networkers

Thirteen is the minimum age of the world's most popular social network sites, including in the UK, and a quarter of British 8-to-12-year-olds who use the Net at home have profiles on social-network sites, according to study by UK regulator Ofcom. Given similarly high levels of Internet use on both sides of the Pond, I doubt US figures for underage social networkers would be much different (I'm aware of no parallel study done in the US). Ofcom also found that 37% of 5-to-7-year-old home Net users had visited Facebook (but didn't necessarily have a profile). The good news is that 83% of 8-to-12-year-olds with profiles have them set so that only social-site friends can see them, and 4% have profiles that can't be seen at all. "Nine in ten parents of these children who are aware that their child visits social networking sites (93%) also say they check what their child is doing on these types of sites." Here's another important takeaway, pointing to a growing need for solid new-media-literacy training in school: According to The Telegraph's coverage: Among kids 10 and under, "70% of those using blogs or information sites such as Wikipedia believed all, or most, of what they read."

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Anonymous Sue Pierce said...

My 11 year old niece and 7 year old nephew have Facebook accounts (mainly to play Farmville!) but are strictly supervised by their parents.

2:30 AM  
Blogger Coda said...

An interesting post Anne. Should we not be concerned that parents of 8-12 year olds are colluding in the breach of TOS (supervised or not)? Surely, this is not an example of "good news" - is it?

4:15 AM  
Blogger Anne said...

This wouldn't be much of a service if I only "printed" good news. That post was just news - I didn't editorialize in that one. It's a huge question, Coda, as you know. Or rather many questions, and not just the important one you mention about parenting. I've written quite a lot about Terms of Use (see these search results), believing that responsible companies should enforce them, but not everybody agrees with that (even researchers not in the industry, I was surprised to find). The 12/13 minimum age of social sites reflects compliance with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). It does present quite a dilemma for parents, whether or not they're colluding, because so many children become very social creatures at a younger age than that set by COPPA. Some of us try to be strict about it, later finding out children either discover or are helped to discover workarounds.

11:49 AM  
Blogger Kelly Ahlfeld said...

A warning that this is a long comment! :)

First of all, thanks so much for your excellent blog; it is a lifeline for me as a parent and a professional. I am a school librarian and tech coordinator, and I am quite passionate about the info and tech literacy piece of my job. This underage issue is really a sticky one for me, both as a parent and a teacher, because I am a firm believe in TOS ethics. I work in an elementary school, and it's hard for me to walk the line, because I try to talk to my students about keeping the integrity of the internet through TOS. I try to point out to them that, although they feel it is no big deal to lie about their age to get on Facebook, how do they feel about a 40 year old lying that he or she is 12? Pretty creepy and not an environment of trust. When students and parents breach trust like this, the internet continues to be a "wild west" kind of place, in my opinion. I feel like I don't really want to know which of them is breaching the TOS when we talk about social networking at school, and this makes me less able to help them learn what they need to know. I did talk about privacy settings with them, and one of the 6th graders took that conversation to mean that I didn't care about their breach, I guess, because I got immediate friend requests from these underage students. I never "friend" students, but I feel like I am either irrelevant, keeping to my TOS stance, or complicit in their rule breaking. As a parent, it's even more difficult, because my son, who is 12, feels as if he is the only one in the world who's parent is following the TOS (and he is not far from the truth on that one!)

I really appreciate all of your thoughtful and researched postings; it's really a help to all of us!

4:36 AM  

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