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Some parent groups are up in arms over proposals to allow tweens on Facebook. The concern is misguided.
We’ve heard a lot of discussion about whether social networks should allow children younger than 13 on their sites. Well, they are already there. The discussion should be about how to protect them.
This has been an ongoing conversation within the company for more than a year, one that executives there are attempting to solve responsibly. As a member of Facebook’s Safety Advisory Board, I have raised this issue several times.
Allowing kids on Facebook – with their parents’ involvement and consent – is the right thing to do.
Children are lying about their age and sometimes doing so with their parents’ encouragement.
Kids’ first interactions with the internet and social media should not include deception. Facebook already provides increased privacy protections for teens, but in their haste to use the service, many lie about their age, missing out on existing safeguards.
We don’t want to teach children to lie to their parents or to the services that they are using, but we also don’t want them to lose out on the chance to connect with others and to learn.
Instead, we should empower parents and children to engage together, to keep them safe and to help them successfully navigate the online world. By signing up for a service together, parents can use the opportunity to teach.
This is an opportunity for a parent to start a dialogue with a child about being a good citizen offline and online.
Two key areas should be part of this “Facebook Junior” experience.
First, the default privacy settings should be friends-only and not be able to be modified.
Second, parents should be able to decide who their children are friends with.
Rather than leaving kids behind out of fear, we can work to empower parents and let kids have positive experiences. – Washington Post-Bloomberg
Balkam is chief executive and founder of the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), a non-profit organisation that receives funding from internet companies, among others. FOSI’s members include Facebook.