May 10, 2011 at 1:05 PM ET
Of the 20 million minors who actively use Facebook, 7.5 million are younger than the social network's minimum age of 13, according to study by Consumer Reports. Of that number, more than 5 million were younger than 10.
Freaked out? If you're a parent, odds are, not so much.
"A majority of parents of kids 10 and under seemed largely unconcerned by their children's use of the site," Jeff Fox, technology editor for Consumer Reports, said of the survey results.
"Using Facebook presents children and their friends and family with safety, security and privacy risks," Consumer Reports added in a press statement about the survey findings that appear in June 2011 issue of the magazine. "In the past year, the use of Facebook has exposed more than five million online U.S. households to some type of abuse including virus infections, identity theft, and — for a million children — bullying."
Consumer Reports' findings about kids and Facebook paints a larger picture than a study released Monday by Liberty Mutual's Responsibility Project that said the number of U.S. parents who would allow children ages 10-12 years old to have a Facebook account have doubled in a year.
And that's not all. Cnet's Larry Magid reports:
The report tracks with other studies including a 2010 study by McAfee that found 37 percent of 10 to 12 year olds are on Facebook and a study released in April from the London School of Economics EU Kids Online project that found that 38 percent of 9- to 12-year-old European children used social-networking sites, with one in five using Facebook, "rising to over 4 in 10 in some countries."
Parents, y'all got some explaining to do.
Facebook takes its fair share of criticism over privacy and safety and spam scams and having overly sensitive content filters, and there are countless Facebook petitions demanding the social network change this or fix that. To its credit, Facebook has simplified its privacy policies and account settings into something pretty much understandable to the average user. Last month, the site also introduced a new suite of safety tools, with information specifically designed for families and educators.
Most notably, the redesigned Family Safety Center addresses concerns parents might (and should) have about their children accessing Facebook, as well as the Internet. The new resource quite clearly addresses your responsibilities as a user and or/parent of a users. What Facebook can't do is make parents read it or detect user age via keystrokes. Not currently, anyway.
"Recent reports have highlighted just how difficult it is to implement age restrictions on the Internet and that there is no single solution to ensuring younger children don't circumvent a system or lie about their age," Facebook said in a statement preceding the Consumer Reports publication. "We appreciate the attention that these reports and other experts are giving this matter and believe this will provide an opportunity for parents, teachers, safety advocates, and Internet services to focus on this area, with the ultimate goal of keeping young people of all ages safe online."
Seriously, Overly-Permissive Parents of the World, ask yourself this:
More on the annoying way we live now: