Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg wants to open the service up to children under 13 years old -- a sharp turnaround from Facebook's current policies, and something that would require legislative changes. Allowing younger kids onto the site "will be a fight we take on at some point," Zuckerberg said.
Speaking at a conference on private investment in education earlier this week, Zuckerberg said that getting kids onto social-networking sites at younger ages is something that would help them learn. "My philosophy is that for education you need to start at a really, really young age," he said.
According to Fortune, Zuckerberg said that, because of current legal restrictions that block sites like Facebook from allowing children under 13 to register, the company hasn't done much to make the service safe for children. But "if they're lifted then we'd start to learn what works. We'd take a lot of precautions to make sure that they [younger kids] are safe."
Consumer Reports recently found that there are 7.5 million children under 13 on Facebook. And a million children were harassed, threatened, or subjected to other forms of cyberbullying on the service in the past year.
Currently, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) requires sites that allow young children to register to obtain verifiable parental consent. Facebook doesn’t verify a user’s age when he or she signs up; it accepts whatever birth date the user submits.
Zuckerberg's comments come as Facebook is facing increased scrutiny over the number of underage users on the site. Earlier today, Consumers Union sent a letter to Zuckerberg saying that "more needs to be done to keep underage users off the site and to protect teen privacy." Yesterday, Senator Jay Rockefeller said the presence of 7.5 million kids on the service was "indefensible."