How young is too young for Facebook?

Daniel Vasquez August

Of the 20 million Facebook users under the age of 18 who have actively used the site in the past year, 7.5 million were younger than 13, according to Consumer Reports’ latest State of the Net survey.

Meaning, they’re so young that they violate even Facebook’s terms of service, which requires that users be at least 13 years old.

As if adolescence wasn’t already tough enough, why expose kids to a social network that can threaten their safety if used improperly? And let’s face it: There bounds to be some missteps when you allow a young kid to navigate the Internet. My wife has made it a habit of policing the pages that belong to the children of her “friends” on Facebook. More than a handful of times has she flagged unsuspecting parents of lax privacy controls on their kids’ pages.

Below are some tips offered by Consumer Reports on “being social but safe.”

Monitor a child’s account. Parents should join their children’s circle of friends on Facebook. Parents should delete a pre-teen’s account or ask Facebook to do so by using its “report an underage child” form.

Utilize privacy controls. Roughly one in five active adult Facebook users said they hadn’t utilized Facebook’s privacy controls, making them more vulnerable to threats. Users should set everything they can to be accessible only to those on their friends list.

Turn off Instant Personalization. Facebook has been adding sites to its Instant Personalization feature, which automatically links accounts to user-review sites such as TripAdvisor (travel) and Yelp (local businesses). Users who don’t wish to share what cities they have visited with their Facebook friends via TripAdvisor should disable Instant Personalization, which is turned on by default.

Use apps with caution. Even though Facebook says in its privacy policy that it doesn’t share identifiable information with advertisers without permission, connecting with an app or website allows access to general information. Users should check the list of apps they are using and define the settings for each one listed.

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Find more advice for moms at http://orlandosentinel.com/momsatwork

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