Facebook: Do not target kids 12 and under

Unless we act now, children as young as 6 could soon be targeted by Facebook’s marketing machine. The social networking giant for teens and adults is considering lowering its current age restrictions to allow accounts for children 12 and under.

It’s a terrible idea. Facebook’s business model is predicated upon marketing and data collection practices that will, by their very nature, exploit young peoples’ well-documented developmental vulnerabilities. That’s why CCFC is working with a broad coalition of allies including Voices for America’s Children, Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, and the Berkley Media Studies Group to convince Facebook to put the wellbeing of children first and keep the current age restrictions in place. Please click here to tell Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg not to target kids.

If allowed on Facebook, children will be targeted by one of the Internet’s most expansive tracking and marketing platforms. Even most adults are unaware of the extent to which Facebook tracks its users - not only on its own site but across the Internet and even to offline sources. This unique access allows marketers to create and implement finely-honed, targeted marketing with an unprecedented ability to activate and manipulate users’ behavior. Facebook users are inundated with messages designed to persuade them to buy products, engage with brands, and promote these same brands to friends.

Research consistently demonstrates that younger children are especially susceptible to advertising – and documents the harms of their exposure even to straightforward forms like television commercials. By allowing advertisers from McDonald’s to Mattel to track and develop personalized messages for kids, Facebook’s insidious, sophisticated marketing will be even more detrimental to children’s health and wellbeing.

And it’s not only exposure to the marketing that will be harmful. Younger children have not yet developed the maturity and judgment to handle the complexities of cyber “friendships” or grasp the potential consequences of sharing personal information online.

It’s true that millions of kids already lie about their age in order to use Facebook, but lowering the age restrictions won’t ameliorate this problem and it will dramatically increase the number of young children using Facebook. So please tell Facebook to leave kids alone by visting http://org.salsalabs.com/o/621/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=13890

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