Parents: Who has time to police kids on Facebook?
Facebook is exploring ways to allow kids under 13, currently banned from the social network, to join -- with supervision from their parents.
For some parents, such as Robin Gorman Newman, 51, a mother from Great Neck, "It's the last thing I want."
She would like her son Seth, 9, to develop more face-to-face communication skills. And Newman said that, as a parent, she's already juggling multiple activities: "Now I have to police him on Facebook?"
Facebook prohibits kids younger than 13 because federal law requires companies to obtain parental consent if they want to collect information about those children. It's simpler to ban the youngsters.
Despite the prohibition, an estimated 7.5 million children younger than 13 have profiles on Facebook, out of more than 900 million users worldwide, by lying about their age.
The company is now testing ways to allow those kids to participate without needing to lie. This would likely be under parental supervision, such as by connecting children's accounts to their parents' accounts.
Few details are available on the nature of Facebook's tests, which The Wall Street Journal reported Monday. Relaxing the ban on younger children could be a long way off, or never get implemented, as happens with many features that Facebook tests.
No matter what technology Facebook might introduce, for it or any other online site to be safe and useful, parental supervision is a must, said Fred Zelinger, a child and family psychologist in Cedarhurst. "When all is said and done, and as sophisticated as technology is, it takes the eyes and ears of parents to supervise," he said.
Jeff Namnum, 39, father of three children ages 14, 11 and 6, agreed: "No matter how they develop it, we still have to monitor it. It's called parenting."
Still, Namnum, who runs a social marketing agency in South Hempstead, thinks Facebook's possible new direction might work. Based on what he's heard, "It's a smart way to derive revenue," he said, "by fixing a problem they allowed to happen."
Given the large number of children younger than 13 who are on Facebook with their parents' knowledge and/or help, "I feel like the cat's out of the bag already," said Linda Lisi Juergens, executive director of the National Association of Mothers' Centers, based in Jericho.
If younger children are allowed to use the site, a plus would be more oversight if they're connected to a parent's account, she said.
Ultimately, it does come down to parental time, says Namnum, who with his wife gave their 14-year-old daughter extensive instruction before she got her Facebook account.
And there's the rub, said Newman, founder of Motherhoodlater.com, an organization for midlife moms.
With friends in her circle already juggling so much, "I can't imagine any parent I know who would embrace doing this."