The first thing we should mention is that Facebook does have a stated policy that children under 13 should not use Facebook and those children ages 13-18 should seek parental permission. More on that policy may be found here. A brief subset of the policy states:
Facebook does not knowingly collect or solicit personal information from anyone under the age of 13 or knowingly allow such persons to register. If you are under 13, please do not attempt to register for Facebook or send any information about yourself to us, including your name, address, telephone number, or email address. No one under age 13 may provide any personal information to or on Facebook
A local NBC affilliate in South Carolina did an excellent story on how easy it is to discover information on young adults that place information. You can view the story in streaming video from here. We watched this video intently since we had this same concern recently with our own kids of this age.
Here is what we found in a quick run through of our own kid’s schools. We did a Facebook search by school, just for kids that listed themselves graduating in 2008. Immediately I had 461 results to start viewing. Clicking on a young lady on the first page, I found where she was going to college and then a huge number of her friends. Taking her name over to some other person search engines (we will cover that ina the next few days) we uncovered articles she had appeared in through the school newspaper (that gets published to yet another site on the Internet) and finally her parents names. This in turn gives us her home address and more. All this from the first randomly selected person.
Why the 4 minutes of time spent? Kids are beginning to share huge amounts of personal information with no long term regard for personal privacy. safety and as odd as it sounds, school and job futures. There are numerous privacy controls built into Facbook that can be configured, but none of these can overcome the lack of teaching how to limit what you share. To whom you share is simply a natural progression of the learning.
There are many school admission programs beginning to search the social networks for information on the applicants to guage how they are perceived and looking for images, stories and other matter that could sway their acceptance into the school programs.
The video above shows how news anchors did this same type of quick work to actually show up at kids houses based on what information they provided in social networks. I thank Wayne Sutton for sending the links over.