A social platform like Facebook does have its share of sensitivity. And in every country, there are restrictions in the way it has to operate. Rightly so, considering the vast amount of invasion of privacy and freedom of expression that it is capable of hosting. Latest to hit Facebook is the debate on the age limit.
In July this year, the Delhi High Court asked Facebook to upload a disclaimer on its home page mentioning that children below the age of 13 cannot open an account.
But it remains just a disclaimer and there is no way Facebook can guess the actual age of the user.
So on September 17, Vidya Niketan School in Hebbal decided to help Facebook. It sent a notice to all parents, asking students from Class 1 to Class 10 to delete their Facebook accounts immediately.
Bullying on Facebook being one of the major concerns of the school; the other reasons for the ban were wastage of time, use of abusive language, exposure to unwanted content, posting offensive comments/remarks and more.
But this move has set off a debate among parents. Anupa Gnanakan-Sundaram, mother of three, doesn't think the ban on Facebook is justified. "The idea is ridiculous. The kids will find their way back onto it using code names or something like that. I don't think anything should be banned. There are ways to control it. My older daughter uses Facebook these days. She's 15 years old. She is allowed on Facebook for an allotted time," says Anupa.
Many other parents agree.
"When my daughter created a Facebook account, she was in class eight, but the age bar then was 18 years. I used to keep a tab on her activities, and I think that's the best option available to any parent," says Suma Sharma, who has two daughters. She adds, "More than a set age limit, I think it depends on the maturity of the child. That apart, it's important for today's generation to be tech-savvy."
Some parents, who do not want to allow their children on Facebook yet, feel that they cannot say so. "We told our 10-year-old son not to use Facebook. But since it seems useless to rant, now we've told him that he cannot use it to chat or message people, so all he does is plays games. I don't think there's much harm in that. But then, it's not just Facebook, there's a lot of adult content on the internet, which children are not ready for," she says.
Principal of Carmel Vidya Samsthe, G B Shivabasavamma feels that using Facebook among school children should be 'strictly discouraged'. "Our school is a Kannada medium one and most of the children are from underprivileged backgrounds, so there's no danger of them having accounts. But among other school students, I think it would be a source of distraction. Their age is such that the negative aspects would seem more appealing to them," she says.
"A lot of the parents I've spoken to think Facebook is not for children below the age of 15, because there is so much sex and violence portrayed on Facebook through various links, memes, etc. There's also the risk of your children speaking to strangers. I believe that the burden of a permanent public reputation is too much for a young mind to handle. Bullying on Facebook and similar activities can leave lasting impressions on a young mind," says Dr A Geetha, a consultant psychologist.