Facebook is developing technology that would allow those under the age of 13 to access the site under parental supervision, a move that could help bring in a sea of new users for revenue but that could also increase privacy concerns, according to a report in Monday's Wall Street Journal.
The technology being tested would allow children's accounts to be tied to their parents' accounts so that parents would decide whom their children could "friend." New kid-friendly features also could allow Facebook and its partners to bill parents for games and other entertainment accessed by their kids.
Currently, Facebook bans those under the age of 13.
But several studies show that many children use Facebook despite the ban, often with their parents' consent.
For example, a 2011 Consumer Reports survey discovered that 7.5 million people younger than 13 already use the site.
As a result, some argue that the ban should be removed so that adults could work more openly with their children on the issue of social networking.
Technology journalist Larry Magid wrote in The Huffington Post that: "Whether we like it or not, millions of children are using Facebook, and since there doesn't seem to be a universally effective way to get them off the service, the best and safest strategy would be to provide younger children with a safe, secure and private experience that allows them to interact with verified friends and family members without having to lie about their age."
But many have criticized the idea of lifting the ban.
Common Sense Media, an advocacy group, compared Facebook to "Big Tobacco."
"With the growing concerns and pressure around Facebook's business model, the company appears to be doing whatever it takes to identify new revenue streams and short-term corporate profits to impress spooked shareholders," the group's CEO, James Steyer, said in a statement.
"But here's the most important issue: There is absolutely no proof of any meaningful social or educational value of Facebook for children under 13. Indeed, there are very legitimate concerns about privacy as well as the impact on the social, emotional and cognitive development of children. What Facebook is proposing is similar to the strategies used by Big Tobacco in appealing to young people—try to hook kids early, build your brand, and you have a customer for life.
"What's next? Facebook for toddlers?"
No doubt parents and their children have endured many a heated discussion over Facebook in recent years as the site has grown in popularity.
Earlier this year, a YouTube video was created by an angry father who, when fixing his daughter’s computer, came across her long Facebook rant about family life. He was so mad about her post that he spilled his own rant, which he promised to post on his daughter's Facebook wall. For his grand finale, the dad pulled out a gun and shot his daughter's laptop to pieces.
The YouTube video became an instant sensation.