A new study from Harvard, New York University and Berkeley researchers finds that "many parents knowingly allow their children to lie about their age--in fact, often help them to do so--in order to gain access to age-restricted sites in violation of those sites' terms of service." The finding comes even after a Facebook executive told the Senate that it wasn't allowed, so it's no wonder how lots of underage kids are signing up for social media accounts with little trouble. Opinions are mixed about the restrictions put in place (and currently under review) by the Federal Trade Commission that forbid young kids from joining sites like Facebook, but some of the potential consequences — like child pornography, contact with pedophiles and bullying — are deeply disturbing.
Though the specific figures vary, the number of under-age kids on Facebook is in the millions. In May, a Consumer Reports annual survey reported that 17.5 million children under the age of 13, the minimum as determined by the FTC's Child Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), were using Facebook regularly. Published Tuesday in the internet-research journal First Monday, the new study "Why Parents Help Their Children Lie to Facebook About Age" explores the role of parents in helped lower that number suggests that the number is even higher today, perhaps because of COPPA's unintended consequences. On average, 87 percent parents knew their 9- to 12-years-old kids signed up for an account and 66 percent of the parents helped their kids lie about their age to skirt around Facebook's terms and conditions.
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