A number of parents are helping their underage children sign up on Facebook by assisting them in lying about their age, a new survey has found.
The national survey, conducted in July 2011, included 1,007 U.S. parents who have children living with them between the ages of 10 and 14. According to a study led by Danah Boyd, a research assistant professor at NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, 36 percent of all parents surveyed knew that their child joined Facebook before the age of 13 while 68 percent of these parents helped their child create their account.
Also 55 percent of parents of 12-year-olds reported that their child had a Facebook account, 82 percent of these parents knew when their underage child signed up and 76 percent assisted in creating the account.
Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) mandates that Web sites obtain “verifiable parental consent” before collecting information on children under 13. Facebook has a minimum age requirement of 13. In spite of restrictions, research suggests that millions of underage users circumvent this rule and sign up for accounts on Facebook.
Boyd is a faculty member in Steinhardt’s Department of Media, Culture, and Communication and a senior researcher at Microsoft Research, which supported the project. The other authors included in the study were Eszter Hargittai of Northwestern University, Jason Schultz of the University of California, Berkeley, and John Palfrey of the Harvard University.
This study has tremendous implications for policy makers, particularly in light of ongoing discussions surrounding COPPA and other age–based privacy laws.