Eight-year olds in the UK are joining social networks


Facebook’s privacy policy states that children under the age of 13 may not register on the social network. But that doesn’t stop kids from wanting to join the site. As an effect, parents are discussing in online forums how to react when their 10 or 11-year olds want to become members on Facebook. Here is one discussion (in Swedish) from last year in which a parent says that several kids in his or her 9-year old’s class are on Facebook. On the family forum Familjeliv there was a poll earlier in 2010 of how many kids under 13 that were members. About a third of the 52 that answered said that their kids were on Facebook, despite being under the mimimum age.

It is quite possible that this trend will only increase with the growth in popularity in social networks. Research from the UK communications regulator Ofcom reveals that children as young as 8 years old are ignoring social networking site rules and creating their own site profiles.

“The research found that a quarter of children aged 8-12 who use the internet at home say they have a profile on Facebook, Bebo or MySpace. All these sites have a minimum user age of 13.”

The research also showed that one in six parents didn’t know that their children were spending time on social networks.

In the UK, 1.6 million teens age 13-15 have a Facebook profile. It seems reasonable to think that also several thousand children under 13 are on Facebook, although they aren’t allowed to register.

Photo credit: ntr23

Respect the privacy of individuals

One of the reasons why it is so interesting to study blogs and the effect they have on mainstream media and businesses is that an entirely new group of people suddenly becomes influential. Many of these new opinion leaders are anonymous or at least only known to a select number of friends or relatives (50% of all Swedish bloggers were anonymous in 2006 – source: BlogSweden 2).

One of the most controversial Swedish bloggers two years ago blogged under the pseudonym of “Alicio” (not a favourite). Today, the most linked to blog in Sweden is Beta Alfa (a favourite), publisher unknown. Blog related services like Knuff, Nyligen, Intressant and others have become hugely successful and influential, and many are run by previously unknown entrepreneurs, in these cases by the unknown Johan Larsson.

Andreas Ekström today writes an article in Journalisten where he wonders who Johan Larsson is. With all that power and influence maybe we are all entitled to know more about this mystery man? And I agree that I am very curious myself about the person behind these terrific services. But on the other hand I have the deepest respect for the fact that he wants to keep his private life private.

Admittedly, if one single person sits on a database that allows him to analyze the behaviour and opinions of a large group of people, there needs to be some kind of control mechanism so that this power is not used in an unethical way. But that doesn’t mean that we have the right to know private information about this person. Remember that the ethical rules for the press state that media should respect the privacy of the individual and not publish information that isn’t evidently in the public interest. And I don’t think that personal information about Johan Larsson is.

Respektera den personliga integriteten
7. Överväg noga publicitet som kan kränka privatlivets helgd. Avstå från sådan publicitet om inte ett uppenbart allmänintresse kräver offentlig belysning.

Footnote: Johan responds.

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