Parents help underage kids join Facebook

NYU (US) — Many parents know their underage children are on Facebook in violation of the site’s age restrictions and often even help them join the site, a new study shows.

The findings, published online in the journal First Monday, coincide with a federal review of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) that mandates that web sites obtain “verifiable parental consent” before collecting information on children younger than 13, says Dana Boyd, research assistant professor of media, culture, and communication at New York University.

Facebook has a minimum age requirement of 13.


The national survey, conducted in July 2011, included 1,007 U.S. parents who have children living with them between the ages of 10 and 14. Among its findings were the following:

  • Twelve is the mean age at which parents of current 13- and 14-year-olds reported that their child joined Facebook.
  • Thirty-six percent of all parents surveyed knew that their child joined Facebook before the age of 13; 68 percent of these parents helped their child create their account.
  • Fifty-five percent of parents of 12-year-olds report their child has a Facebook account; 82 percent of these parents knew when their underage child signed up and 76 percent assisted in creating the account.
  • Fifty-three percent of parents think Facebook has a minimum age; 35 percent of these parents think that it is a recommendation and not a requirement.

The study’s other authors are Eszter Hargittai of Northwestern University, Jason Schultz of the University of California, Berkeley, and John Palfrey of Harvard University.

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