The Big Idea: Facebook's minimum age should be 21
June 5th, 2012
11:17 AM ET

The Big Idea: Facebook's minimum age should be 21

By John D. Sutter, CNN

(CNN) - The U.S. legal drinking age is 21. Should Facebook have the same requirement?

Plenty of people light-heartedly say the 900-million-person social network is "addictive," since so many of us spend hours a day checking up on what our Facebook friends are doing.

But following a Monday story about whether Facebook should allow children younger than 13 to join the site - since stats show they're on Facebook anyway and Facebook reportedly is considering implementing parental controls that could allow it to lower the minimum age - some of CNN's commenters fired back, saying that the minimum age should not be lowered.

In fact, they said, it should be raised.

"No. Flying Green Monkeys. No," commenter AnneV99 wrote in response to our question about whether 11-year-olds should be allowed to join Facebook. "In fact, raise the age limit to 21. Why? Because many parents and teachers are already teaching their children to be irresponsible. But what is Facebook - It is all about ME-ME-ME. Facebook = Sickness (but not as bad as that evil-Twitter thing)."

The point of view is more than a little ironic considering Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was 19 when he launched thefacebook.com from his Harvard dorm room in 2004. If AnneV99's rule were actually put into place, the site's own creator wouldn't have been able to use it.

Perhaps more realistically, several other commenters called for Facebook to create a minimum age of 18. Here's a sampling:

JustJen: No one under 18 should be allowed. There's too much potential for harm, and children cannot protect themselves. No, not even with parents looking over their shoulder. It's just too risky. I don't use it either. I agree with the previous poster that it's toxic.

Think4yourse: I dont believe anyone under the age of 18 should be doing anything unsupervised over the internet. Simple to see why. Look at the US before the internet, and look at it now. Id have to scoff at anyone who will say today is better as far as the attitude of our children go.

camelspyder: It is a major turnoff that kids have a facebook page. No one under 18 should be on it. Facebook has become another Myspace and the only difference I see is you can't add music to your page. And parents wonder why their kids get bullied by kids they don't even know and stalked by pedophiles online. I don't even log on unless I really need to contact an old friend or relative. Other than that Facebook does not fit my active lifestyle.

snowyowl: I think FB should be banned for anyone under 18.  Put teeth into it and hold FB accountable.
And, a personal favorite:

666efg: As a witness to what facebook does to young teens, I vote NO NO NO ... they should change it to 18. ever since my niece has got a facebook her life has become DRAMA at school, the kids cuss, talk about drugs, sex .. its horrible.. some parents don't pay attention to their kids facebook.

Oh, the DRAMA. Some commenters went even further, saying that anyone - of any age - would be nuts to have a Facebook page:

whodey: Joining Facebook at 11, or at 21, 31, or 41 – it's all questionable.

Finally, the parents. There were plenty of naysayers in the comments section of our story - people who express their views on 11-year-olds on Facebook by capitalizing the word "NO" and employing multiple exclamation points. But several people who described themselves as parents wrote in to say their under-13 kids are on Facebook and that, with their supervision, everything works out just fine. Data from Microsoft Research suggest many, if not a majority in some cases, of young kids are on Facebook, and that many of their parents actually help them lie about their age to join the site.

Here's what a few of the more lenient parents had to say:

Mark Davies: I wouldn't have a problem with my children (both going on 11) using FB. However, I would setup the controls myself (i.e. parental, only friends can see, etc.) and monitor closely. The same way I would with a 13 year old (or older).

dv62: I am not a fan of kids on the internet but they are. I know many that are not old enough that have accounts. If it is controlled and parents are interactive, then it is just another form of communication for kids. They use cell phones with all the bells and whistles which is harder to control than Facebook. No matter how we look at it, parents need to be aware of what their kids do. They are already on the internet and Facebook, make it a safe zone.

Bill MacDonald: My son is on Facebook and is perfectly safe as we follow rules.. My seven year old will also have an account if allowed. Parents monitor what they do and where they go on the net Parents can see their friends and eliminate those that they do not really know. But it is a great introduction to technology which some of you may realise... is here! I can not believe this is an issue.
Have more to say? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section. For context, check out our original story and another from the WSJ.
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Filed under: Culture • Internet • Tech
soundoff (415 Responses)
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    February 8, 2014 at 2:56 am | Reply
  2. Delmar Molinini

    Information that might be needed a lot of people ..! Keep on sharing for a better life..

    January 5, 2014 at 7:26 pm | Reply
  3. Chunga

    I disagree with all of you. This is just another example of the dictatorship that people older than a certain age have over people under that age, in society. One day, there will be a revolution, and you will all be sorry for this!

    October 9, 2012 at 7:56 pm | Reply
  4. Frugalsales.com

    Setting an age limit is not going to stop kids from joining, since you are not required to provide any form of Identification. Kids will just lie about their age. So it is up to the parents to supervise their kids activities.

    August 11, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Reply
  5. jACOB

    Sorry to say this but i think this is stupid. Yes, im a sixteen year old, but i should still be able to talk to friends through Facebook. Ithink there shouldn't be a minimum age. Yea, adults are going to say something different but i just want to stat my opinion

    June 12, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Reply
  6. clumsycarrie

    The fact is, even with guidelines for parent supervision, people under eighteen are not safe on Facebook. The problem isn't even internet predators–because I believe many, many children and teens have been properly instructed on the impropriety of meeting people via the internet–but other kids. Cyber-bullying is a serious and hard-to-avoid problem because of the multi-faceted internet-connected world we live in. Parents can regulate but kids–well-meaning kids who just want to talk to their friends or play that game a little bit longer–will lie about doing school work, and schools have only so much authority over what happens outside of the school house, even if it does involve their students. Facebook is a fun service but the chat function is unregulated, like AIM, like iChat, like text messaging. So either Facebook must regulate its chat service–and there are feasible, non-complex ways to do this such as a more immediate report button with a clear notice that the offending user will not be notified of being blocked or their message flagged–or delete those under eighteen from it's 900 million users.

    June 11, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Reply
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    June 11, 2012 at 12:00 am | Reply
  8. ashley

    Why cant we go back to when Facebook was for college students only? I liked it when you couldn't post pictures and you didn't have a status update! Facebook is garbage anymore.

    June 10, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Reply
  9. Huston

    That is a poor idea. The company just went public and is profit driven by advertising. Children are a major demographic to advertise to.

    June 7, 2012 at 7:53 pm | Reply
  10. Cason

    Business is business. This article is a waste of time. If FB doesn't provide it, than someone else will. And if there is a law, kids will lie. I think the idea behind reducing the age limit is not so they can have more users, it's to encourage people to be more accurate. Many pre-teens are on FB, they just lie about their age. If they allow them to be on their with certain limitations, it will improve the overall quality of the FB experience for everyone.

    June 7, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Reply
    • Cason

      Silly gramatical mistakes.

      June 7, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Reply
  11. Bryce

    Yes, let's get rid of more freedoms. America is the land of the free, yet you would restrict people who are over 18, granted not by far, from accessing facebook? It worries me that our basic freedoms in America are slowly being taken away over the actions of a small percentage of people.

    June 7, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Reply
    • burnz

      This entire article is drivel.

      June 7, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Reply
  12. Gray

    But, but, but... if teens can't use Facebook, however will we fill the "mirror picture" and "breakup blast" quotas? :-)

    June 7, 2012 at 11:25 am | Reply
  13. JoePub

    So, put in parental controls after the horses left the barn?

    June 7, 2012 at 10:58 am | Reply
  14. Lucy

    I think they should convert it back to a just college kids website like it used to be. Facebook served a purpose when it was a college-only social network. You met people who you were going to be going to school with before your first year, then you got to know new friends better through their Facebook. I liked it back then when it was simple and that's all it had. Now it's out of control with all the bells and whistles it has. It's all so ridiculous...

    June 7, 2012 at 10:54 am | Reply
  15. tm

    I think the legal age to drink soda, eat fast food, and purchase junk food should be raised to 18 and parents who have children under 18 can't buy or consume those things either. Let's all focus on something a little more important.

    June 7, 2012 at 7:30 am | Reply
    • JoePub

      Apparently the important thing for you is to let the government be a nanny to its people.

      June 7, 2012 at 11:37 am | Reply
  16. Edward C.

    I'm for it if the minimum age to enter the military and give your life for your country is raised to 21. If you are man enough to die for your country, you are man enough to do ANYTHING else that requires one to be an adult. That includes consuming alcohol. I say LOWER the drinking age to 18, as well as the right to purchase handguns. If an 18 year old can't be trusted to drink beer and own a gun, they have no business being a soldier. Period!

    June 7, 2012 at 6:49 am | Reply
    • Mike

      Couldn't agree with you more. Age policies are so arbitrary and silly. It's beyond me why you have to be 21 to consume alcohol (so kids just do it illegaly) but you're encouraged to to join the military at 18 and I believe many states allow girls to marry as young as 14 (might even be younger is some places). In what world does the decision to consume alcohol require more maturity than the decision to fight and defend your country or the decision to share your life with someone.

      June 7, 2012 at 8:09 am | Reply
    • Juan

      The military age should be the legal adult age period. The government is always quick to say let's raise the age for this but never moves that military age from 18. Kids are encouraged and in some cases made by their parents to have a part-time job from when they turn 14 (or the legal working age of their state) while being in school. America is too quick to restrict freedoms the 18-20 can have but isn't willing to give any back. I'm 20, have 3 jobs while enrolled full time at a university, yet I can't even have a beer after getting off my work where I serve almost exclusively alcohol at a sports arena. It's not even a matter of me wanting to drink, just the fact that I work, pay taxes and am considered "not responsible enough" to have a beer.

      June 7, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Reply
      • Les

        18-21 is the ideal age group for soldiers. Males are at their peak physically and have the stamina to undergo the stresses and demands of the battlefield. Their brains are still malleable and they can quickly be taught all the skills they need to serve their countries including unquestionable obedience to their commanders and officers. "Me" disappears and their "squad" becomes the only important thing they need to worry about. They are under the umbrella of military law NOT civil law so their "civil rights" are not even an issue. This has been the way of things for the entire history of humanity. Up until the "me" generation, it was widely expected that every American male serve in the military then go to college, get married or whatever. In most civilized countries this is still the case.

        June 7, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
  17. Alan Taylor

    Yes, no-one over 21.

    June 7, 2012 at 6:03 am | Reply
  18. eClipse

    Yes – the age should go up, not down – maybe 25 is a better number.

    Children do not need this narcissistic nonsense in their lives. At best it is a benign waste of time, at worst, it accelerates alienation and bullying.

    June 6, 2012 at 11:12 pm | Reply
  19. dbert

    Comes right down to it facebook is a waste of time , people have forgot how to use there time better now..shut it down

    June 6, 2012 at 10:37 pm | Reply
  20. Erin

    Circa 1998, I was eleven when I got my own computer in my room with no parental supervision. I didn't post pictures. I didn't post my name. I did everything I could to hide my age, because what kid seriously wants everyone to know they're eleven? I pretended to be Justin Timberlake in the old Geocities chat rooms and didn't know how to use email. Then I taught myself how to actually use a computer; I learned HTML and CCS and made bad Websites for my favorite shows. I posted on message boards with usernames, never my real name. I read and wrote stories in my free time, and my reading level jumped from average to college level by the time I was twelve. I guess that was a different world back then, but I am so glad my parents didn't micromanage me or try to shield me from the world. I turned out fine.

    June 6, 2012 at 8:29 pm | Reply
    • Josepi

      completely agree, I followed the same steps!

      13 is the minimum age across many forums and websites and has been for many years. it's an accepted age to use a computer responsibly.

      but there are always idiots who over-share... but they will have to learn

      June 7, 2012 at 7:07 am | Reply
    • travelsonic

      Sounds EXACTLY like how I got into computer usage – and then later studying comp. si..

      June 7, 2012 at 8:42 am | Reply
    • Sinem

      kochiz: Pucha es que yo no leo a los gurfaes del disef1o de informacif3n! Habia visto ese rdseief1o que Greg Storey habia hecho al sistema de informacif3n de amenazas de la Casa Blanca. Su blog es uno de mis favoritos (de su LONGBOARD saque la idea para la columna Bookmarks de este blog).Juan Pablo Tapia: Amigo JP, al parecer no. Ya que cuando en el ticker (que ya no es un ticker) inferior la noticia es de deportes sale en verde, cuando es de economia sale en morado, etc.gatamelatta: Yo amaba esa frase de Mies van der Rohe, hasta que escuche9 la versif3n de 37signals: Less is less . Porque decir menos es me1s, es decir que me1s es bueno. Menos es mejor, asi que Menos es menos .

      September 25, 2012 at 9:02 pm | Reply
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