kohenari responded to the question, “What do you think is the best way to deal with the increasing number of under 13s using social networks like Facebook?” with another question.
The first question, in response to your question, is to determine why you believe something needs to be done …
In other words, your site says that you’re researching a social networking solution … but you haven’t really specified the problem, at least as far as I can tell.
So what is the problem?
- 38 per cent of 9-12-year-olds use social networking sites across Europe, even though all networks set a minimum age of 13 to join.
- A quarter of children on social networking sites have their profile set to ‘public’.
- In the UK, 43% of 9 to 12-year-olds are using social networking sites, despite the minimum age limits
- Younger children are more likely than older to have their profile ‘public’. A quarter of 9-12 year old SNS users have their profile ‘set to public’.
- One fifth of children whose profile is public, display their address and/or phone number, twice as many as for those with private profiles.
- The features designed to protect children from other users if needed are not easily understood, by many younger and some older children.
- The use of social networking outside school is beyond school control.
- In many cases, what’s viewed is outside of reasonable parental control.
The full report, Social Networking, Age and Privacy, is available online here.
Under 13s are exposed to:
- Older friends’ pictures, videos, statuses and messages.
- Prank statuses commonly referred to as ‘fraping’.
- Cyber-bullying and online predators.
- Default privacy means profile’s have limited privacy, often personal information is open for anyone to see.
- Future reputation damage with improper use.
- Relationship statuses.
Another key issue is that children under 13 will choose a birthdate that makes their age 18+. There are key privacy issues with this. Under 18s are better protected on social networks, but can only be protected if their true age is known.
It’s not all bad.
- “Contrary to popular anxieties about isolated loners who stay at home and chat to strangers online…empirical research undermines any sharp line between online and offline, or virtual and face-to-face. ..online communication is primarily used to sustain local friendships already established offline, rather than to make new contacts with distant strangers (Boneva and others, 2006;Gross, 2004; Mesch and Talmud, 2007), and this applies equally to social networking (Ellison and others, 2007;Valkenburg and Peter, 2007a,b).”
- Social networking is used as a way of “bridging social capital — and encouraging the creation and maintenance of extensive social networks of weak ties (Ellison and others, 2007).”
- “social networking sites enable them to overcome the embarrassments of face-to-face communication, because they afford asynchronous, noncommittal, playful interaction in which the management of ‘face’ and negotiation of …misinterpretation and innuendo is more controllable (Livingstone, 2008a).”
- “social networking disembeds communication from its traditional anchoring in the face-to-face situation… re-embedding it in more flexible, complex and ambiguous networks in which, it seems, children share advice and support with peers (Heverly, 2008).”
- “Educators and advocates of new digital literacies are confident that social networking encourages the development of transferable technical and social skills of value in formal and informal learning (Crook and Harrison, 2008; Ito and others, ”
- Article first published online: 4 JUN 2009 © 2009 The Author(s). Journal compilation © 2009 National Children’s Bureau:http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1099-0860.2009.00243.x/full
What are the possible solutions?
- Better education (leaflets, videos, flyers and letters).
- Built-in education.
- New social networks.
- In-house social networks.
- Improved VLEs.
- Change in the law.
What do you think?