When it comes to kids networking, social media security and privacy issues have posed serious threats to its young demographic. The young users are more vulnerable to unwanted exposures and security hazards.
Social media surveys have revealed the troubling fact that social networking sites are not pitching in enough effort to safeguard its pre teen and teen users from unbecoming attitudes like cyber bullying, peer jealousy and stalking etc. The news of criminal activities like pedophiles and targeting minor users through their exposed data is equally unnerving for parents and society. The debate has started a quest for safer social media interfaces and My Space is proving to be far safer medium for minors than facebook.
Now let’s try to weigh pro and cons of both social media sites to prove the point:
- European Commission Survey: European commission published a report in June 2011 on the implementation of safer Social networking principles. This independent assessments finding proved to be shocking for the whole world as it declared Facebook, with 150 million active users and 20 million users under 18 (at that time), unsafe for minors while My Space managed to survive the test and proved satisfactory. The first batch of report is about 14 signatories amongst which only two were given green signal.
- Rising Popularity of Social Media among Children: The popularity of social media is growing like a snowball among children but the sad fact it that they are not well equipped to handle all the hazards that come with the package. EU research shows that 38% of children between 9 and 12 yrs of age have social network profiles but most of them don’t know how to change their privacy settings.
- Let Parents Handle it: My Space is equipped with parental notification tool and age verification software which gives parents the remote control to monitor their children’s activity as they get to know about the social contacts of their children. While facebook has showed a criminal negligence towards its kid users as there is no such facility available there.
- Age Bar: My space has minimum age limit of 14 years to join the site while facebook has 13 yr age limit. Although both of them do not offer any software to confirm it. There are sources quoting that there would be roughly 7.5 million children under 13 years of age using facebook. The number makes facebook intimidating for minor users.
- Facebook More Public than Private: There are often alarming statements coming from facebook administration remarking about the site being more public than personal but the recent statement by Mark Zuckeberg says that children under thirteen yrs of age should be allowed to used facebook. Now Mr Zuckeberg should also reveal some plan of safety measures for these young users.
- Default Setting: My space protects its young user by default setting as only restricted people can access the account of minors and view their profile. While facebook lacks such secure feature.
- EU Report Trivia: The report has brought out certain revealing facts about Social media security for teens saying that “almost half of the younger facebook users …are not able to change their privacy settings”. Facebook privacy settings are not children friendly “and half of the young users have not made their profile public by choice”. Uk’s media survey has shown that children’s internet actitvity has increased this year and now more children have access to the internet in their bedrooms. Most parents feel insecure and losing control as their children know more about internet than they do. This data has certainly placed more responsibility on social networking sites to protect children.
Facebook should design default settings to make it safe and friendly for minors. That is the way they can keep it safe for our younger generation. To mention, Google+ has that extended measure of privacy & security in the form of specific circles.
So, as I said in my previous child safety articles, again the responsibility lies upon the parents, the teachers and the networking platforms to keep our kids safe.