Facebook might allow kids younger than 13 to join -- not that they aren't there anyway.
One of my 1,802 Facebook friends is 8 years old. He friended me, and I accepted. (Others declined, fearing their Facebook content might be too racy for him.) His mother set up the account for him after he "pressured" her into it -- which meant she lied about his age in order to create the profile. "I thought I could put enough controls on it to protect his privacy," she says. So she has his password, logs in as him and set it up the account to avoid stranger danger by allowing only him to friend someone.
The boy's posts are tame, even though he is one of the cheekier kids our family knows. His mother will post photos of him on vacation catching a 14-inch small mouth bass or playing electric guitar at an outdoor festival. He challenged me once to a Words With Friends game, and he occasionally posts photos of his cats or ice hockey practice.
Being able to monitor his account seems to be working fine for my friend now. But she acknowledges that one day, in a fit on independence, he might decide to change his password. What would she do then?
That's why she thinks potential controls that Facebook could implement as a result of tests to relax the ban on children younger than 13 would be a good idea, especially if they mimic how parents set up cell phone accounts. Another friend likes the idea that allowing young kids to join will prevent them from sneaking behind their parents' backs to do it.
A friend who will not let her son do it explained why this way: "Kids need to master real communication before they should be set free on virtual communication -- real relationships before virtual relationships."
We were not so philosophical about it when my husband and I decided against setting up a Facebook page for our 8-year-old son, Harrison. I thought a closely monitored page would be an efficient and fun way to share Harrison's life with extended family, although I was concerned about the idea of creating an idelible electronic record. He has not asked for a Facebook page, but this is why I would not allow him to start a Twitter account. My husband felt strongly that Facebook might expose him to things we don't necessarily think he now needs to know about.
What will you do, parents, if the ban is lifted on little kids?