Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Facing the Rule Book Down Under

Facebook has done wonders for the media and entertainment worlds. It brings us closer to our friends, family and our favorite actors and musicians. It is something to helps pass the time on those long, boring days. Facebook can also be used as a means for businesses either as promotion or expanding their company to the internet. Facebook is an international phenomenon. Everybody, well almost everybody, wants to be on Facebook. It's the "cool" thing to do that everyone wants to be a part of. Even the more, achem, mature crowd is on Facebook using it to keep in touch with their kids and possibly grandkids. Though Facebook is an attractive vehicle for communication, is it suitable for people of all ages?

There is one issue that is always popping up no matter the subject. And that issue would be how a child is affect by what they experience in their daily lives. Children are the most vulnerable age group and it is the responsibility of adults to protect them. You may believe the elderly are the most vulnerable because they appear to be frail in comparison, but the experience they have gained over the years puts them a step above children. The way a child is raised does have a huge effect on how they conduct themselves as they get older. So there may be a lot of pressure on a parent to assure their child comes out "normal" based on societys' standards. As long as a child is shown the difference of what is acceptable behavior they should turn out "normal."

The internet has many demons but it is also a useful tool when used correctly. As I said Facebook is great way to communicate with people and its fun! But there are a lot of people that take advantage of the freedom that Facebook is offering. It is a known fact that some people use the internet in hurtful ways. To prevent this from happening Mark Zuckerberg and his Facebook team asks its users to be at least thirteen years old to create an account, if not they should ask their parents for permission before setting up an account. Requesting a person's age is supposed to help in filtering what content is deemed age appropriate. But there is no way for Facebook to verify someone's age online, so their methods are not foolproof.

Last week the Australian government discussed taking the initiative to grant parents full access to their child's profile and possibly raise the age requirement to eighteen so that a Facebook account can be created. The following are a few reasons behind precautions that Australia is attempting to instill.

Bloomberg News reported the main reason the Australian government is favors increasing the age limit to eighteen is "over online bullying that led teenagers to commit suicide." In recent years there have been numerous teen suicides as a result of cyber bullying. This is not to say that teens were not bullied when the internet first came out but now there are more ways to taunt children and the suicides have now become more publicized in the news.

Another form of bullying which was not mentioned in the articles is the presence of sexual predators online. Children are seen as easy targets because they are naive and usually very trusting. Children cannot decipher when a person is being genuinely kind or overly creepy. They don't see that it is suspicious for an adult to want to friend a child that they do not know while parents will think an adult would want to cause harm to a child in this instance.

Second, would be the accessibility to inappropriate material. There are group pages and individual profiles that discuss sex, drugs and alcohol in addition to photos displaying lewd acts. Children will see this material and may attempt to act out what they see online. They begin so by taking sexually suggestive photos and posting them online, which in extreme cases can be labeled as child pornography. The sexting epidemic can also be applied here through the use of chats, comments and private messaging. Violence and weapons are another dangerous topic that a child could stumble upon.

Now the above mentioned are valid reasons for wanting to protect children as much as possible on the internet but there are some issues that may arise. First of all how can a person's age be verified through the interent. A child can easily lie about their age in order to set up the account. Facebook states that if they have knowledge that a user is under thirteen years of age Facebook will be delete their page but again how can that be proven. Children can also set up a Facebook page without their parents knowing and unfortunately parents do not have the ability to cancel their youngsters account. Currently parents are not granted any access to their child's account, unless they are their friend can they see the profile but they still cannot make any changes to the profile or settings.

To ban people under eightteen is not the road to take because there are underage people who use the site correctly. It is a fun and educational past-time where users can play games and keep in touch with others that live far away. Facebookers should make use of all the privacy and account settings that are available to them; the less information available to the public the less accessible you make yourself. Facebook needs to create a filtering system in which a parent can set up an account and any information that is intended for the child be first sent to the parent. From there the parent can supervise what information is received and what information they will allow their child access to. In addition to supervision parents need to teach their children to be very careful about what they post online because once its submitted it will remain in cyberspace forever.

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