Father: Why Isn't Facebook Keeping My Kid Off Its Site?

from the parenting-is-for-losers dept

Facebook is a fascinating study in how different countries around the world deal with forward technology and the internet as a whole. It really is something of a Rorschach Test of each nation's legal system and process. We've heard recently how Germany nixed Facebook's "Like" button. UK officials had the brilliant idea that rioters would go back to sipping Earl Grey tea instead of throwing things at other things, if only they weren't on those intoxicating social networking sites. Meanwhile, in America, teachers in Missouri had to sue for the privilege of friending their students (because we might be able to trust these teachers to be in direct contact with our children, but not on the scary internet!).

And now reader Paddy Duke alerts us to the story of a Northern Irishman and his quest to get Facebook to keep his 12 year old daughter off its site. Because, really, who else could possibly accomplish such a feat? He is apparently suing Facebook for negligence.

The issue is that this gentleman's 12 year old daughter didn't tell Facebook she was 12. She said she was older, thereby routing around Facebook's age policy. Then she posted reportedly racy photos of herself along with other personal information, such as her home address and the name of her school. The kicker is that she did at least some of this while in the care of the Northern Health and Social Care Trust facility, which appears to be primarily an institution for children and the elderly who are suffering from mental health issues.

I have two questions. First, if Facebook is negligent in allowing her to use their site, what word should we use for this father also allowing her to use the site and not stopping her unwanted behavior? Supernegligent? Negultragent?

Secondly, what's the solution here? Any age check done by Facebook is going to be porous at best. The linked BBC article has a quote from this Father-Of-The-Year candidate's solicitor (attorney):
"An age check, like asking for a passport number would be a simple measure for Facebook to implement."
If it's so simple, I'd love to see this attorney take a crack at it. Passport numbers wouldn't work for a variety of reasons. First, you're potentially depriving Facebook of a swath of users who don't have passports. I recognize this is probably less of a concern in Europe, but it's still an issue. Also, what's to keep children from swiping their parent's passports to create accounts? This 12 year old girl already routed around her father's attempt to shut down her Facebook page. Do we really think she would have stopped at the "Input Passport Number Here" field, thrown up her hands, and went back to playing with dolls and sugersnaps or whatever her father imagines her doing if only she'd had real parents?

And why should Facebook have to implement such a system, paying the costs for doing so, all so parents don't have to parent? I'm not a father, which I recognize some will use to say that I just don't understand the trials and tribulations of raising children in the internet era. They're wrong. I do understand all that. That's why I'm not a parent. I know I'm not ready for that responsibility just yet. But if I ever do have children, I'll be sure not to take a website to court to cash in on my being asleep at the wheel.

Filed Under: blame, liability
Companies: facebook


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Sep 2011 @ 9:35am

    Re:

    "At the same time, it is clear. In the "real world", where we have age limits on all sorts of things, businesses are routinely fined and punished for not enforcing age limits. I think a bar or nightclub is a very good example.

    There is enough responsbility to go around. Facebook having a system in place that is simple to bypass is pretty much like a bar doorman being presented an ID with the kids picture taped on the front, and accepting it as valid. The theoretical minimum requirement was reached (asked for ID, or asked for age) but really it didn't do anything."

    Here's the problem: you can't really truly prove your age without some sort of properly autheticated document or some sort of number that can uniquely identify you.

    People registering on Facebook would have to provide that document/number to prove their age, and then Facebook would have to have access to a government database that contained private information on individuals to determine if the given identification number/document is valid and if the bearer is of an appropriate age.

    Do you want to give facebook (or anyone else) that kind of power? Note that this wouldn't solve anything either, because little miscreants could still use their parents id number/document to create an account.

    Are there better alternatives?

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