May 24th, 2011

Facebook Wants Children — Yours — to Boost Ad Sales


CEO Mark Zuckerberg wants kids under 13 to be on Facebook, according to an interview in Fortune. It’s all about education, he says. Let those kids reach out to each other and say the darndest things, all while sparking each other’s thirst for learning.

Uh, yeah. Kids will go to Facebook and turn it into an educational experience, and I’m about to dance in Swan Lake for the Joffrey Ballet. Zuckerberg’s statements are either incredibly uninformed or disingenuous. To pretend there are no social networking outlets for kids is nearly farcical, and to say that regulations prevent Facebook from allowing those under 13 to be members is factually incorrect. The likely fuel for his interest in scuttling long-established online protections for children is an increasing desperation to pump up revenue in advance of an IPO.

It’s all for the children

According to the interview, Zuckerberg is passionate about education. After all, he pledged $100 million to the Newark, N.J., school system, right? And now it’s the primary reason he wands to let kids under 13 onto social networking sites like Facebook, as Fortune explains:

He also shared anecdotes from his own education and upbringing, gave advice to other entrepreneurs and talked about why he wants kids under 13 to be on Facebook.”Education is clearly the biggest thing that will drive how the economy improves over the long term,” Zuckerberg said. “We spend a lot of time talking about this.”

He argues that students could more easily learn from one another. There’s a problem, though. There already are social networking sites for kids, some with tens of millions of users. There are also specific educational networking sites for the younger crowd.

And it’s not as though kids of school age aren’t already on Facebook. According to a Consumer Reports study, more than a third of minors already on the service are under 13. That translates into 7.5 million, according to the publication

Maybe Zuck doesn’t get around much anymore online. However, here’s some major misdirection that Fortune reporter Michal Lev-Ram swallowed hook, line, and sinker:

Zuckerberg said he wants younger kids to be allowed on social networking sites like Facebook. Currently, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) mandates that websites that collect information about users (like Facebook does) aren’t allowed to sign on anyone under the age of 13. But Zuckerberg is determined to change this.”That will be a fight we take on at some point,” he said. “My philosophy is that for education you need to start at a really, really young age.”

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