Sorry!! The article you are trying to read is not available now.

Facebook to Target the 13-and-Under Set

Print comment Post Comments

The prepubescent set may not have a ton of purchasing power based on what’s clinking inside their piggy banks, but that doesn’t mean the demographic should be underestimated as a target market. Just ask every toy manufacturer and sugar cereal producer on the planet.

Their impressionable little tween eyeballs are peeled on every screen in the house -- from the big one on the TV to the generation’s new nanny, the iPad (AAPL) -- and lapping up advertisements galore.

Until now, Facebook (FB) has taken the high road when it comes to leveraging children for a higher profit margin. To protect them from sexual predators, Internet trolls, and cyberbullies, the social network had traditionally banned anyone under the age of 13 from creating an account. There’s also that pesky federal privacy law that prohibits websites from collecting personal data from children without verifiable parental consent.

But as its stock price continues to fall through the floor, Facebook may be re-evaluating its age policy in order to open itself up to more than 50 million potential underage profiles. After all, the kids are already using it -- just illegally. Seven-and-a-half million of them as of last year, to be exact.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Facebook is developing a technology that would take the lying out of the under-13 profile. The prototypes being tested now allow kids to create and maintain profiles, but only under adult supervision. Adults are able to exercise control over who their children “friend,” what pictures they can post, what applications they can use, the entertainment they can access, etc.

Whether or not Facebook will be able to implement the technology beyond a beta system is still undetermined. But given the regulatory risks associated with the network as it currently exists for children, it behooves the company, if only for legality’s sake, to nail these new features.

"Recent reports have highlighted just how difficult it is to enforce age restrictions on the Internet, especially when parents want their children to access online content and services," Facebook told the WSJ. "We are in continuous dialogue with stakeholders, regulators and other policy makers about how best to help parents keep their kids safe in an evolving online environment."

Sure, this system may absolve Facebook of certain liabilities, but parents shouldn’t fool themselves into thinking this solves problems on their end. A supervised Facebook account filled with wholesome photos and status updates should be a dead giveaway that it’s a decoy to their kid’s real profile. 
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.