Commentary

Half of 12-Year-Olds are on Facebook

Social networks like Facebook and MySpace are supposed to be limited to people who are ages 13 and up, but this is far from being the case, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which found that nearly half of American 12-year-olds -- 45% -- have profiles on these sites. Assuming the 12-year-old population has remained stable, around 3.96 million since the latest Census projections in 2009, that means 1.78 million 12-year-olds are evading Facebook’s age limits.

These figures, while large, don’t come as much of a surprise following an earlier estimate from Consumer Reports that 7.5 million children under the age of 13 are on Facebook, including five million children under the age of 10. And they’re in line with separate data from Harris Interactive, which found that half of parents with 12-year-olds know that their children are on Facebook. What’s more, seven out of ten of these parents actually actively helped their children evade the security protocols meant to prevent anyone from under age 13 getting on the site.

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Meanwhile it seems that social media use correlates with a tendency to falsify age data in other areas of online activity: Pew found that 49% of teens who use social networks admitted to misrepresenting their age to gain access to Web sites and online services, compared to 26% of teens who don’t use social networks.

Again, this isn’t terribly surprising in light of an earlier Pew survey, from 2007, showing that 69% of younger teens deliberately post false information on their social media profiles, compared with 48% of older teens. Meanwhile 64% of male teens said they post false information on their profiles, compared to 50% of female teens.

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