There has been troubling trends in the internet world. Cyber bullying, sexual predators and computer viruses are only some of the dangers that lurk behind the computer monitor. And disturbingly, there's also a growing number of users on Facebook - children.
Facebook requires users to be at least 13 years of age, according to their terms of service. However, despite this policy, an estimated 7.5 million Facebook users are children under the age of 13, out of the 20 million or so minors who use Facebook each year, according to Consumer Reports. Many of these children are unsupervised.
Facebook warns children under the age 13 against registration. Unfortunately, it is all too easy for kids to create a Facebook account simply by entering in a fake birthday - it's the site's only screening process to check a user's age. Facebook does not require any formal identification to sign up.
Acknowledging the dangers of Facebook is the first step toward protecting children. A widespread problem is that many parents do not consider Facebook a problem at all.
"... [A] majority of parents of kids 10 and under seemed largely unconcerned by their children's use of the site," said Jeff Fox, Technology Editor for Consumer Reports to ConsumerAffairs.com.
At the same time, Consumer Reports estimated that computer viruses cost around $2.3 billion a year and forced households to replace 1.3 million PCs. Surveys have also shown that Facebook exposes 5 million U.S. households to other problems, such as identity theft and bullying.
While it is difficult to get your kids to follow the rules, helping them navigate the internet could be a crucial step toward making sure they are safe. Having a conversation with your child about the use of Facebook could be one way to help monitor their internet usage.
Another option might be for parents to sign up for a Facebook profile themselves, and "friend" their kids. This way, you can monitor some of their usage by seeing who posts on their Facebook. Children might not enjoy being your "Facebook friend" - but you're the one who pays for the internet bill.