BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Facebook has become an institution, with people connecting and reconnecting in ways they never thought possible. Now some big changes might be on the way.
Could a "junior" version be in Facebook's future? Right now the social network has a policy banning anyone under 13 from logging onto the website, but research shows pre-teens get on Facebook anyway. So the company is working on a way to get kids on, safely.
If kids under 13 were allowed to use Facebook, would it be on the company's established network with more than 900-million users or would Facebook set up a junior network? The company claims it throws tens of thousands of underage users off its network each year, but research shows most pre-teens get on there anyway.
Nicole Schuman said, "I know middle schoolers that have cell phones, smartphones, iPhones."
Schuman is a social networking consultant and president of the Buffalo Chapter of the Social Media Club. Thirteen-years-old is the threshold for Facebook use to protect pre-teens from internet predators.
"If a child below 13 or below 18 is going to sign up for Facebook, Facebook should have that information under lock and key, completely private. Not being able to post pictures or anything like that of the children," she explained.
Since so many underage kids are already using Facebook, Schuman believes changing policy would permit Facebook to more closely police the younger users.
Dr. Ramona SantaMaria said, "It's the policy of Facebook to sell your data."
Dr. SantaMaria is a professor in Buffalo State's Department of Computer Information and the mother of a young child.
"And we need to promote technology to all different ages of kids and students, but we have to do it safely," she contended.
But Dr. SantaMaria wonders if parents really want Facebook to own their child's information - a 7-year-old for instance - for a lifetime.
"So from 7-years-old, they have your information for the rest of your life and they can use that information however they want to," she noted.
Federal law also bars younger kids from having their own profiles on Facebook. So if pre-teens are allowed on Facebook's network, they would need parental approval.
Should there be an age limit for Facebook? Vote in the poll with this story.
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