Can Facebook Help Prevent Cyberbullying and Keep Kids Safe from Strangers?

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Facebook announces today they are looking at ways to legally grant access to children under the age of 13. (June 4th, Family therapist, Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil encourages Facebook to embrace their important role in using privacy to prevent cyber bullying, access to porn, and other age inappropriate behavior.

Facebook is working on technology to accommodate younger users of the site, according to the Wall Street Journal today (June 4th, Legally, children under the age of 13 aren't allowed to be on the site, and Facebook has come under fire for not having a better way to police kids who lie about their age in order to join the social network. Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil says this step toward child safety could be a big break in the reduction of cyber bullying, kids seeing porn, and interacting with strangers.

She encourages the site to use the guiding principles of the Three P's: Prevent, Protect, Prepare.

Because the site is considering a system that would allow the accounts of younger children to be linked to their parent's accounts, Dr. Bonnie is encouraged that kids would have the supervision of an adult. Because 7.5 million children under the age of 13 are already on the site, along with five million under the age of ten (according to Consumer Reports and the Wall Street Journal Dr. Bonnie emphasizes that this supervision in order to prevent troubled behavior is of utmost importance.

"Thirty-six percent of parents know their under-age kids are on Facebook, and some have even helped their children set up their accounts so that means that a significant percentage of parents are likely already involved in their kid's life on Facebook," acknowledges Dr. Bonnie. "But other parents might be surprised to find their pre-teens are using the site, and those kids need protection as well."

If Facebook's new technology comes to fruition, parents would have a more direct involvement - they'd be able to manage interactions and perhaps find out if their kids are struggling with bullying. It would also provide a way for kids to do the things they enjoy doing - playing games and connecting with friends - while being protected from things like porn and inappropriate behavior.

Dr. Bonnie points out that just like kids have gone around age restrictions on drinking by getting fake IDs, children will continue to lie about their age in order to sign up for Facebook. "If Facebook agrees to privacy audits and to creating controls for parents to manage their kids, the site could be a safe and enjoyable place for kids to play," says Dr. Bonnie. The key is getting the right balance but Dr. Bonnie encourages Facebook to work to find this balance and to make up with kids and their families, not break up with them!

To see Dr. Bonnie talk more about healthy parental interactions with and protection of their kids, click here: And check out her book, Make Up Don't Break Up for more information on inappropriate cyber behavior.

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