Here are some interesting numbers to think about: According to Facebook, 57.8 million American teens aged 13-19 have a Facebook account. But according to the latest census there are only 42.3 million Americans aged 10-19.
The difference between these figures is enormous, and we have to ask: Why is Facebook reporting more teens on Facebook than there are in the population? We’ve come up with a few reasons to explain what’s going on:
- Kids younger than 13 are on Facebook: According to the rules of Facebook, users have to be 13 years of age or older. But it’s not that hard to type in a different birthday if a kid under 13 wants to create their own profile.
- Adults are posing as teens: Adults, including sex offenders, can easily create profiles where they depict themselves as teens. This makes it easier for them to get in touch with younger people online, creating dangerous situations for actual teenage Facebook users.
- Kids are creating bogus profiles as a means of bullying: This actually happens – there are kids out there who set up fake Facebook pages to spread rumors about others. For example, four teens created a profile misrepresenting another boy as gay and a racist, resulting in a lawsuit because of the cruel comments and humiliation that affected the victim.
There’s no doubt that Facebook can be a positive experience for teens when used the right way. But these numbers show that something fishy is going on. The examples listed above represent instances of online predators, cyberbullying and damage to online reputation – all because people are creating fake profiles that abuse the use of Facebook. While Facebook is doing what it can to prevent fake profiles – made for whatever reason – from popping up, it’s important to make sure our kids know how to verify who they “know” online and stay out of contact with potentially harmful online friends.
What else do you think contributes to these misconstrued numbers? Does this make you more worried about your kid’s online safety?