Headline Dec 15, 2014/



IN ITS early days,  Facebook was hangout for college students searching for fun and passing time.

Now the social networks is open to all ages   -except, in theory,  the under  13s.

Children need protecting from  online bullies,  cyber stalkers and inappropriate pictures, runs the logic.

The problem is that the  under-13s  can enroll on  Facebook simply by lying about their age. Some of them, parents will be shocked to hear, have actually done so:

5.6 million in America alone, by one estimate.

The current safeguards are as effective as a   ''Do not pilfer''  sign on an unguarded cookie jar. It's time to rethink.

There are two opinions. Facebook can either try harder to prevent children from joining,  -or it can let them in, but with safeguards. The company is trying with the second idea. Its bosses are debating:

Whether to allow children to set up their own profiles under parental supervision.

That could mean making it easy for parents to vet their children's friends and to police the apps they use. Facebook is said to be looking at ways of charging parents for games and other apps that their offspring play with.

Many people are aghast. One activist has compared  Facebook to a tobacco firm seeking to get kids hooked early. Children must be protected from Facebook, argues the firm's critics.

This is unfair. Social networking does not cause cancer. There is no compelling reason why children should not socialise with each other online. What is worrying is that :

Those on  Facebook today are treated as if they were adults.

Many have created profiles   -complete with photos and personal information -that virtually anyone can see. Many access  Facebook through mobile phones; some reveal where they are to prying eyes.

A more subtle problem is that children's first experience of social networking today often involves deceit, which is hardly the best way to encourage good online citizenship.

Facebook has a powerful incentive to clean up its system. It risks falling foul of an American law that requires companies to obtain parental consent before collecting information from youngsters.

If it does nothing, it could also face flood of lawsuits and negative publicity, as children inevitably get into trouble. The only trouble is what should it change?

I AM SHOCKED, shocked, to find out that socialising is going on.

Software filters to block under-age users are unlikely to work, because young geeks will find ways around them and share them with all their friends.

Far better to let children open join  Facebook  and create a safer environment for them to socialise in. The following safeguards would be a good start:

First,  Facebook  should ensure that privacy settings for  preteens  are automatically set at maximum strength. Their pictures and social plans should be visible only to their friends,   not to their friends friends' or  the online world.

The company should also create  simple  controls   that allow parents to monitor whom their kids are befriending,  which apps they have access to and what information is being collected about them.  

And it should seek approval from both the children and their parents before making any changes to these settings. This approach should shield children from predators.

It would make it easier to ensure that they see only content that is suitable for their age. And it would allow Facebook to provide them with advice about how to stay safe online.

To some this will seem like whopping risk. After all Facebook's record on privacy matters is as chequered as the flag that marks the end of formula one race.

But the alternative is almost certainly worse. 

Facebook and other social networks already have millions of vulnerable, clandestine underage users.

It is time to bring them into light.

With respectful and loving dedication to all the Nippers Network. See Ya all on
!WOW!  -the World Students Society Computers-Internet-Wireless:

''' To Marvel At All Things '''

'''Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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