Wed, Jul 04, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Children fake age to join Facebook

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Children play on a tablet computer in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Yang Chiu-ying, Taipei Times

A survey yesterday suggested 95 percent of children in the nation’s metropolitan areas have a Facebook account and 85 percent of them use fake names and ages when using the social networking Web site.

The result came as a shock to many as Facebook requires users to be at least 13 years old before they can open an account.

The survey, released by the Child Welfare League Foundation, also found that more than 61 percent of the children said they have friended strangers on Facebook.

Up to 84 percent would allow complete strangers or a friend’s friend to click “like” for their comments posted on their wall. If they accessed Facebook applications and were asked for permission for access to their personal information, 57 percent would choose to accept, the survey showed.

Meanwhile, nearly 49 percent of them reported that they had seen pornographic advertisements on Facebook and 12 percent said they had clicked on those links.

The survey was conducted from March 22 to April 6 in 19 elementary schools in Taipei City, New Taipei City (新北市), Greater Taichung, Greater Tainan and Greater Kaohsiung.

It collected 1,144 valid samples and focused on how fifth and sixth-graders used the Internet.

Results of the survey showed the three most popular things respondents like to do over the Internet are listening to music or watching movies, managing Facebook or their personal blogs and playing online games.

Compared with last year, the number of students using Facebook or blogs has increased by almost 20 percent.

While the students said they mostly used Facebook to keep in touch with their friends or share information with their peers, the survey found that 21 percent of the students spent an average of more than two hours daily on the social network Web site during weekdays and 30 percent said they spent an average of three hours daily over the weekend.

Seventy-four percent of the children said they would add their parents on Facebook.

Vivian Huang (黃葳威), a professor at the radio and television department at the National Chengchi University, said students should be told about the minimum age requirement to access Facebook at their first class of computer studies.

She said it is normal that children use a fake identities and ages when they go on Facebook.

“Children want to grow up,” Huang said. “On Facebook, they can not only meet their classmates, but also different people. They are not necessarily looking for sex. Most of them just want to prove their independence.”

However, most of the children are not adequately alert to the new “friends” they met on Facebook, she added.

If parents cannot ban their children from using the social network, Huang said they should ask their children to add them as friends as well.

“With the ‘Check-In’ function, parents can track the whereabouts of their children through Facebook,” Huang said. “However, they should avoid meddling too much with the online activities of their children.”

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