Mark Zuckerberg wants to bring Facebook to kids under the age of 13. Currently, there are laws in place prohibiting kids under 13 from having Facebook accounts. On his site, Digital Living, Shelly Palmer asks the question–”Does Facebook have educational merit or is this an effort to fill another marketing demographic?”
From the comments and articles I’ve read, this seems to be the crux of the debate. Zuckerberg claims that in using Facebook as an educational tool, kids need to start young. I know Izzy uses Facebook to get missing homework assignments and get help with schoolwork on occasion. She uses the chat feature to study sometimes with friends. But most of the time she uses it to talk to people and goof around. And hours can slip by before you know it.
I’m trying to get to the meat of what Zuckerberg envisions. How can kids use Facebook in education? Okay. Scooting around to different sites, I’m starting to get the picture. Here’s a quote from David Daw’s article on PC World, “Zuckerberg framed Facebook as a tool to help educate children about using the internet before suggesting that COPPA, a federal law designed to protect the online privacy of children under the age of 13, is standing in the way of that goal.”
I was hoping Zuckerberg was talking about some grand scheme to keep kids interested in learning and school. The skeptic in me leans toward the argument that encouraging young kids to join Facebook is a marketing strategy. But time will tell.
Studies show that a lot of young kids already have Facebook accounts. I have to confess that for a school science project we helped Amalia create a page on Facebook in order to spread the word about the cause that was the focus of her project. She doesn’t use the page and after I finish this post, I’m going to deactivate her page. I’ll get no argument from her. She didn’t want to be on Facebook. To her, it’s just something else to be responsible for and her days are full enough.
In the PC World article, Dr. Gwenn O’Keefe talks about digital citizenship in the online world. However, she’s not sure Facebook is the right tool to teach this to kids. Larry Magid reviews the website Togetherville for the Huffington Post. Togetherville is in beta form and is a free social networking site designed for kids with their safety in mind. Kids can only friend people a parent has approved. Advertising will be minimal. On the site, kids are encouraged to play games, create artwork and connect with friends and family. Of course, these are all things we can do in real time as well.
Check out this video from Dad Labs, a group of fathers from down in Austin who are taking back paternity. Daddy Clay talks to the authors of “The Smart Parent’s Guide to Facebook.” It’s a good starter on issues like cyberbullying, but I also like that the guys are drinking a beer and there’s a bottle of Jim Beam lurking in the background.
What do you think?