A lot of people are wondering why Facebook would be contemplating adding children under 13 as users. In fact, as we all know millions of children are already participating in this social media platform even though there has been a policy against it. Interestingly, Facebook decided to promote “honesty” through this new policy, so that children won’t have to lie about their age.
This reminds me of previous misguided decisions to market adult products to a much younger audience like the Marlboro man or more recently ultra-violent video games being marketed to middle-schoolers.
Facebook’s IPO was met with early skepticism, then tumbled 45 percent after its initial offering. Financial experts are wondering where the next surge in numbers and profits will be. Enter the concept of an “under 13” market: Replace departing users with younger and younger users.
Interestingly, Wall Street analysts are taking a hard look at the stock as it continues to tumble. However, maybe they should just start looking to their own kids. A lot of teens seem to be utilizing newer, cooler social networking options such as “Foursquare,” “Tumblr” or even “Pinterest.”
Certainly, creating a phenomenon like Facebook now at almost a billion users in eight years is no small feat. However keeping them and growing those numbers has proven more difficult. While teens seem to have a different level of concern than adults regarding their privacy and data, they still care about privacy. A lot of young graduates and career-minded adults are closing their accounts as Facebook has become a liability with job recruiters and college admissions directors scanning Facebook pages regularly.
As more examples of personal data are made public and more kids face online issues such as cyberbullying, geo tracking and stalking, teens and their parents are becoming increasingly concerned. And they should be. There are very real consequences to sharing highly personal data on Facebook.
As for the commercial use of broadcasting websites aimed at children, the FCC has prohibited commercial ads from trusted brands such as Disney for years. Now, those same rules even apply to their websites and “new media” platforms.
Maybe Facebook is just a passing fancy with a meteoric rise that already reached its zenith and is spiraling downward. Or, perhaps it will indeed create new interest and increase its stock price again. However, one thing is clear: Unlike the old ad for KIX cereal, Facebook is not and should not be for kids.
“When I was 18 or 19 years old, I did a lot of stupid things,” Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg admitted to a congressional investigation. “I don’t want to make an excuse for that. I’m really sorry that I did them.” The problem is that when our kids do “a lot of stupid things” on his social network, Mr. Zuckerberg doesn’t seem to care. If he did, he would clearly state his policy excluding children under 13 from Facebook and use his considerable brilliance to figure out how to actually enforce that rule and protect our children’s privacy.
Maybe in the end, the market will work. Facebook is hearing loud and clear from Wall Street to Main Street that the public will not tolerate how it treats our privacy.
Perhaps. Mr. Zuckerberg, if you started listening, your stock might just go up.
This article originally appeared on The Tennessean.
- Hon. Deborah Taylor Tate is a member of the MMTC Board of Directors, co-chair of Healthy MEdia: Commission for Positives Images of Women and Girls, and a former FCC commissioner.