Are you ready for your second- or third-grader to sign up for Facebook? The company floated that idea this week, telling the Wall Street Journal that it is considering allowing kids under the age of 13 to use the site with parental supervision. This is a trial balloon, floated for the benefit of D.C. regulators and Congress as much as for parents. Facebook made the potential plan sound as benevolent as possible, saying it is testing linking kids’ accounts to their parents’ pages and adding controls that would allow parents to decide whom their kids can friend and what apps they can use.
Don’t be reassured. Facebook is interested in kids because it wants to encourage them to share widely, as early in their lives as possible, because that’s good for the company’s market share, now and in the future. The most telling line in the Journal article is this one: “Concerns have been growing over Facebook’s ability to sustain the 88% revenue growth it achieved last year via advertising, especially in the wake of its troubled initial public offering.” This is a company under pressure to increase profits—and one whose record with teenagers doesn’t demonstrate that it’s a good place for younger kids to grow up.