Some 7.5 million Facebook users are younger than 13, according to projections by Consumer Reports. That technically violates the social network’s terms of service for users, who are required to be 13 or older.
“Despite Facebook’s age requirements, many kids are using the site who shouldn’t be,” Jeff Fox, Consumer Reports’ technology editor, wrote in a May 10 statement. “What’s even more troubling was the finding from our survey that indicated that a majority of parents of kids 10 and under seemed largely unconcerned by their children’s use of the site.”
Consumer Reports suggested that, out of the total number of minors using Facebook, some 5 million were 10 and under. Facebook has more than 500 million active users.
The publication also advised parents of kids aged 13 to 17 to take steps to ensure their safety on the social network, including the use of privacy controls, turning off the instant-personalization feature that links to Websites such as Yelp, being cautious in using applications and monitoring an account. Using security features such as passwords can help protect the use of Facebook’s mobile services.
Consumer Reports’ numbers reinforce a larger trend of relaxed parental regulations on minors’ social-networking use. An online survey of roughly 1,000 adults by Liberty Mutual’s Responsibility Project found that some 17 percent of parents had no problem with a pre-teen using a social network, up from 8 percent in 2010. Some 11 percent of parents used a social-networking Website in the name of a minor child or infant.
Facebook’s rapid growth has attracted the attention of other tech giants. Research firm comScore recently suggested Facebook posted 31.2 percent of the 1.1 trillion display ads in the United States, outpacing Google, which notched up 2.5 percent of display-ad impressions. Google continues to hold around 95 percent of the market for text-based search ads, although its acquisitions of DoubleClick and YouTube suggest the search-engine giant realizes the ultimate importance of display ads to its bottom line.
Facebook’s selection of social plug-ins-including the increasingly ubiquitous “Like” button-has made it an increasing presence on the Web. At least one company appreciates that reach: Microsoft has chosen to deepen Bing’s relationship with the social network for U.S. users, extending those Liked results to any URLs achieved by the search engine’s algorithmic search. The two companies originally announced a social-search partnership in October 2010, and Microsoft likely hopes that a fresh layer of Facebook data will allow Bing to compete even more robustly with Google. Microsoft also owns a small share of Facebook.