Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Parents Helping Kids Lie To Get On Facebook

(CNN) -- It probably won't surprise you that millions of underage kids -- some as young as age 8 -- are on Facebook, despite rules that prohibit children under 13 from joining the social-networking site.

What may be more startling, however, is this: Their parents are helping to sign them up.

These are among the findings of a new study appearing this week in First Monday, a peer-reviewed online journal. The four co-authors of the study argue that such age restrictions, inspired by the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, are mostly ignored by kids and parents and only encourage dishonesty.

"Our data show 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," the authors wrote in the study's introduction.

The vast majority (95%) of the parents of 10-year-olds on Facebook were aware when their child signed up for the site, and 78% of those parents helped create the child's account, according to the study. For 11- and 12-year-olds, the percentages of parental knowledge and involvement were slightly lower.

Although 89% of the parents surveyed believe there should be a minimum age for Facebook, 78% believe there are circumstances that make it OK for their child to sign up for an online service even if he or she does not meet the site's minimum age requirement.

When asked what these circumstances might be, parents most often cited school-related activities and communicating with other family members.

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