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.”
But just how would Facebook’s social features be used by younger children?
“Because of the restrictions we haven’t even begun this learning process,” Zuckerberg said. “If they’re lifted then we’d start to learn what works. We’d take a lot of precautions to make sure that they [younger kids] are safe.”
Here are my first thoughts.
1. PESSIMISM: Of course Mark Zuckerberg wants kids on Facebook – Facebook is a advertising & trend analysis GOLD MINE dressed as a happy, friend-connecting social network. Kids are the largest licensing group, and advertisers would LOVE to get their hands on that kind of market.
So much for the ENTIRE POINT OF COPPA – which wasn’t created for your immediate privacy, but created to PROTECT CHILDREN FROM MARKETERS STEALING OR SWINDLING PII.
Also see: Facebook Forced to Address Legal Gray Area of Kids and Advertising from AdAge. http://adage.com/article/digital/facebook-forced-address-kids-advertising/227633/
2. FEAR: Oh, that’s a GREAT idea. Why not make more PERSONALLY IDENTIFIABLE INFORMATION ABOUT MINORS available? Tre sigh. Yes, education is VERY important – particularly about secret identities. But, children under the age of 13 DO NOT HAVE THE COGNITIVE CAPABILITIES TO BE SOLELY RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR PUBLIC PERSONA. Part of being young is that you’re protected and allowed to make mistakes – by allowing that on Facebook – a public platform that reaches far beyond the lunch room, and far beyond your mom telling your aunt about that stupid detention you got? BOO. Not ideal.
3. LOGISTICS & CONCERNS: MODERATION. SCALABILITY. COST. Even if Facebook DID man up and start pre-screening all content contributed by U13 sources, what a nightmare! Staff to cover something like that? Insane. And neither revenue nor cost efficient.
4. HOPE: Any sort of “educational program” that comes with U13 on Facebook would have to be an entire new entity. Think: Facebook Junior, profile training wheels. It would have to be limited, with tutorials and information, and educational guidance. Leverage the sort of YouTube content that SweetyHigh has created (worth checking out). But in no way, would Facebook be able to cruise right into allowing U13 without redesigning the fundamental/core use of Facebook.
4. REALITY: I deal EVERY SINGLE DAY with kid chat, and kid posts, and kid interactions, and behavior crises from U13. I worry about social networks for children that do NOT rely on fantastical role play or themed-content. Those two elements help protect direct attacks (or even mistaken, indirect attacks) on a sensitive and underdeveloped child by allowing creative persona & identity hiding (to a certain extent, of course – real friends playing in fantasy worlds blends that reality vs role play, and takes interaction to a different level). Children are still in the process of social learning. Social learning CAN be expanded – and I do applaud the idea of social network education… but tossing youth into the deep end, where there are daily Trojan attacks on accounts, stolen identity issues & account phishing, cyberbullying, advertising lures, and STRANGERS is not ideal. Think about it: not even normal, rational adults can successfully navigate Facebook accurately…
If there is a way for Zuckerberg to incorporate social networking education, with Facebook structure, I’m eager to see it – but there are quite a few MASSIVE problems in his path. And with this audience? Bowling through the ideals without proper guidance, understanding, or safety nets = not a safe agenda.
I hope Zuck collects his facts, has the necessary research concluded, and (excuse the phrase) gets his shizzz straight before he really dives into something like this. For as much as I applaud optimistic philosophy, I desire educated practicality.
How the Public Interprets COPPA-Prompted Age Restrictions
Most parents and youth believe that the age requirements that they encounter when signing up to various websites are equivalent to a safety warning. They interpret this limitation as: “This site is not suitable for children under the age of 13.” While this might be true, that’s not actually what the age restriction is about. Not only does COPPA fail to inform parents about the appropriateness of a particular site, but parental misinterpretations of the age restrictions mean that few are aware that this stems from an attempt to protect privacy.
While many parents do not believe that social network sites like Facebook and MySpace are suitable for young children, they often want their children to have access to other services that have age restrictions (email, instant messaging, video services, etc.). Often, parents cite that these tools enable children to connect with extended family; Skype is especially important to immigrant parents who have extended family outside of the US. Grandparents were most frequently cited as the reason why parents created accounts for their young children. Many parents will create accounts for children even before they are literate because the value of connecting children to family outweighs the age restriction. When parents encourage their children to use these services, they send a conflicting message that their kids eventually learn: ignore some age limitations but not others.
I really, truly encourage you to head over to the link above and read the beginning and end (I sectioned only a portion) of Danah’s post. She’s right.
Back when I was an early blogger, I used to get frustrated with the casual nonchalance of parents who let their kids watch Youtube, then create accounts, and then post videos (ack!)… teachers/parents who friended their U13 kids on myspace and facebook and twitter (blergh). There are a lot of these conflicts-of-interest I see happening regarding the dynamic between parents & children accessing the social/entertainment world online. As the years have gone by, I’ve stopped ranting so much about these other social media sites. I just try to make sure that the wee corners of the interwebs that I touch have some sort of care, logic, appropriateness to them.
Having said that… I, fortunately & unfortunately, have the hands-on experience working with Age Gates from one stance NOT mentioned in Danah’s post…. youth-targeted sites.
Age gates = have been a battle for many a kids biz. Frustration points I’ve encountered, or had others relay to me:
1. Most kids, teens, adults, parents don’t even bother putting in the right info – they just choose the easiest option (either the pre-populated date or January 1, 2011) from the scroll gate option. > Now they’re caught in the filter.
2. The session cookies. Yes, I think on many levels a session cookie is necessary (why would you have a gate if they can cheat the gate?). However, as mentioned by Danah, and my point 1 above – parents / adults either put in the easiest information OR they put in their CHILD’S information… > Now they’re caught in the filter and frustrated (CS ticket if you’re lucky).
3. How do you determine a child from an adult when receiving a poorly spelled (btw, yes, many parents do not spend time editting and their emails often look like a child’s – identities have been tested and proven via phone conversations, arrrg!) CS ticket regarding the age gate? Fun times. > Now they’re caught in the filter. Cookie sessioned. And possibly a poorly educated parent looking for a bit of help for their kid.
4. TIP OFF LANGUAGE – Due to the FTC & Safe Harbor Co’s attempts at trying to keep some sort of legitimate gate-action happening… This is frustrating to navigate. I agree with the need for non-tip-off language, however, this can get really questionable fast when you really start to analyze the language you’re using to explain how to use the age gate without explaining how to defeat the age gate. > Now they are caught in the age gate, cookie sessioned out, confused by why, with CS tickets submitted and no where to go…
5. Every biz wants kids to enter the lists for their closed Beta… but you can’t have a minor agree to the legal documents associated to a Closed Beta session. Ruh roh, age gates doing what they’re supposed to do against the need for the site… > Rock, meet hard place. Also, add in: Caught in the age gate, cookie sessioned out, confused by why, with CS tickets submitted, no where to go, and now questioning the legitimacy of a kids site that won’t let kids in…
Ruh Roh + Fail whale? Or age gate success? Tre sigh.
I’m not going to give you my solutions to these frustrations, but having pointed them out, hopefully you’ll understand some of the yellow flags out there regarding Age Gates. Every little heads-up helps, yeah? I hope so.
Now go read Danah Boyd. She’s much more eloquent than I am today… 😉
Planet Cazmo is going to partner with Fox’s Teen Choice 2010 awards and entertainment mogul Tony Mottola to create a custom virtual environment called the Virtual Teen Choice Beach Party. The special virtual environment will be directly accessible from a link on the Teen Choice Website. The Teen Choice 2010 awards will air August 9 at 8 EST on Fox Users will be able to visit the virtual beach party after casting their votes online.
In the Virtual Teen Choice Beach Party, users will be able to design an avatar and a virtual home. In the virtual world, users can chat, play mini-games, virtually dance, and even purchase virtual goods. One of the goods for sale will be a branded good shaped like the award show’s signature Teen Choice Surfboard. This won’t be the first virtual event Planet Cazmo has developed for a major brand or celebrity partner. Previous projects developed by Planet Cazmo were primarily virtual concerts or music-themed, though.
Okay… So, wow.
First, I do find it absolutely RAD that Planet Cazmo has broken the start-up, non-uber-brand IP curse and managed to score such a marketing bonanza as TEEN CHOICE AWARDS on Fox. That’s kinda huge. Brings in the eyeballs – aka, sudden brand awareness.
For the last two years I’ve watched Planet Cazmo score quite a few influential contracts with big music peeps… They’re freakin’ email machines – no one sends as many newsletters as this site… seriously. There is always something going on it seems.
The art is easy, not too complex. The world is expansive (almost too expansive, but they try to pack everyone into the same server- providing the PARTY! feel of busy-busy).
Again, I’m still floored by their marketing department and promotions… well played for such high profile awesomeness.
PROBLEM: I just logged in as a minor and was able to share “my” phone number (or, ya know, the Empire Carpet guy’s number, five eight eight two three zero zero), “my” address (or, ya know, the white house), amongst other things. Then I created another account, logged in, and watched myself say the same content all over again (aka, the public can read it, its not just author-only jedi-mind-trickin’).
At least they caught “shadows are as dark as holes” – but as holes, for as swarthy a curse as it is in kid land, is NOT A LEGAL PROBLEM.
I can’t believe I just logged in, approved my “child” via email plus, and then passed out faux-personal information. What the what?! AND THEY’RE GOING UBER-PUBLIC WITH A TV SPONSORSHIP! It makes me very, very nervous for them.
Talk about disappointed. I’ve been dealing with several companies lately that are looking to ensure that they’re sponsorships/partnerships/etc with youth virtual worlds are LOCKED DOWN and safe… why the heck didn’t Fox check into the legal nature of Planet Cazmo?
I’m still absolutely astounded that I could give addresses and phone numbers. Baffled, even.
The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) is a group which aims to stop the effect that corporate marketing has on children. Based in Boston, this group has a list of several dozen campaigns such as “CCFC to Nick and Burger King: SpongeBob and Sexualization Don’t Mix!” and “Stop PG-13 Blockbusters from Targeting Preschoolers”. The group has now targeted Nick.com for promoting its sister-site, AddictingGames.com, because the latter site contains “sexualized and violent” flash games like Sorority Panty Raid, Naughty Classroom and Perry the Sneak. CCFC requests that NickJr.com and Nick.com stop linking to such content “to children as young as preschoolers.”
Zoinks! Click the link above for more information regarding this…
Typically sites need to have some sort of:
A) URL Clicking Policy – I subscribe to the two clicks method (used to be three clicks method, but times change). If I can get to inappropriate content within TWO clicks of a main page – that’s not good. My problem? Social media and the idea of the “e” audience… aka EVERYONE. So many people are using Facebook and Twitter as community tools to help engage a wide-reaching audience. I understand this… but here’s my problem: even if I control the content seen on my facebook page, and even if I control the content on my twitter account… I can’t control the content of the people who friend me. So, if you’re in my facebook group, I can click on your picture in my “friends” box and possibly access inappropriate content. Le sigh. This is a sketchy area and I feel as a community/safety profession I lose ground on this almost by the month.
B) Bumper page – the intention of bumper pages is to help young users “pause” in their link-clicking and rethink their decision to leave that site, as the site they’re traveling to is not under their power, and content may appear that shouldn’t. But… if Viacom owns the sites in question – why would they bumper page their own content?
It’s something you need to talk about, be aware of, and try to form policy or decisions around… don’t get caught.
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