In order to open your own Facebook account, you have to be over the age of 13.
According to Facebook’s Help Center, creating an account with false information (eg. saying you’re 13 when you’re actually nine) is a “violation of our terms.”
(If you know someone under the age of 13 operating a Facebook account, you can fill out an online form which will have that account promptly deleted.)
Age is one of the only restrictions in place when it comes to opening a Facebook page. It would be logical to assume that it has something to do with online safety, protecting young children from bullying or exposure to inappropriate content.
Perhaps the decision has been made based on developmental research, whereby kids under the age of 13 cannot understand the implications of engaging in an online world? Maybe their frontal lobes are not advanced enough to see the long term consequences of posting a photo or a status?
But no. That’s not the reason at all.
Rather, the age limit has been determined by the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which was passed in 1998 to protect any child under the age of 13 from having their data collected. This includes name, address, phone number, images, screen name, and video or audio files.
Any website or online service that obtains such information from its users must have a strict age limit in place—but of course, doesn't work if your 10-year-old daughter is claiming she's 13 online.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, "Federal law cannot protect their personal information from being collected and shared with party advertisers," if they are falsifying their age online.
So just because your son has celebrated his 13th birthday does not in any way mean he is developmentally ready for the world of Facebook.
All it means is that Facebook now can legally sell his data to a third party.
It's information that every parent should know before handing their child the metaphorical keys to a space they might not be emotionally or intellectually equipped for yet.
This post originally appeared on Mamamia, Spring.St's Australian sister site. You can read it here.