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Mónica Guzmán

Stories at the intersection of tech and life from a boldly connected city.

June 11, 2012 at 1:25 PM

Poll: What should be the minimum age to join Facebook?

You have to be a certain height to get on carnival rides. Should you have to be a certain age to get on Facebook?

Thirteen is already a legal age for joining that and other social sites, according to a federal law that requires sites get parental consent before collecting personal information from kids. But if Facebook finds a way to comply with it, rather than ban preteens — as it’s said it wants to — that legal age, the only standard we really have, could fade.

Would you want to replace it?

If you do, what age would you set? Don’t answer too quickly. A minimum age would be a social guideline, but it could also be a dangerous shortcut. Much as we’d love the convenience of consulting one parenting user manual for every kid, that would be a bad way to parent. Kids are all different.

“The thing about age cut-offs when you talk about children is that they never work very well,” said Seattle Children’s pediatrician and Internet and health researcher Dr. Dimitri Christakis told me last week. “Children follow different developmental arcs. When you say R rated movies are for 17-year-olds, no switch goes off when they’re 17.”

That said, age guidelines are an anchor, a social starting point, Christakis said. And that’s worth something.

For more on this, check out my latest Sunday column: Should your kid be on Facebook? 4 questions to ask.

Find me on Twitter and Facebook.

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