I'm more bothered about the lack of scthweaming about the casual use of "educational benefits". It seems like anything and everything these days is 'educational', few ever bother to say 'prove it' and even fewer ask if it is 'more educational' than something old-fashioned. And of course if you don't have It[tm] (don't forget to pay, one way or another) you are a bad, bad person DEPRIVING all those poor lil' orphans of a fighting chance when they have to go out and fend for themselves in the uhh.. "real" world.
Not got your digital citizen certificate? Only got a C- in advanced tweeting? Fewer than 50 friends. [Insert future fashionable displacement activities here]. Oh dear....
Once upon a time I was genuinely thrilled by the possibilities of the net.
The age limit is an american thing, as far as I am aware it has no basis in law in the UK.
The comment about "owning" their own data at 13 is not entirely correct as far as I am aware - it is still a parent/guardians responsibility at age 13.
See Answers.com - Why is facebooks age limit 13
Which is a better option?
Raise the age limit to 18 and pretend the problem doesn't exist (it will still exist and even if kids don't lie about their age and sign up anyway they will move to other sites such as Bebo, or some other upstart company will make an online space for that age group)
Lower or leave the age limit unchanged and educate about appropriate use, educate about risks and actually teach kids to be able to manage their accounts
Banning kids from FB (or similar sites) is not only unrealistic, it will leave them completely unprepared to be responsible online when they do actually reach the age where FB is suddenly acceptable for them to use.
The tobacco example doesn't gain traction with me at all. Cigarettes are not available in the way that internet access is available, on devices already in pockets and in unmonitored bedrooms using unfiltered internet access. It is far harder for a child to buy cigarettes than it is to sign up for a facebook account and there is a very different social stigma attached to smoking.
There are people who are trying to use facebook educationally (and at a time when schools are investing so much time and money in VLEs!) just have a look at The Why and How of Using Facebook For Educators – No Need to be Friends At All! | The Edublogger
As with most things, I can see pros and cons...
There are educationalists who are pushing ahead with these ideas whether you like them or not and whether they turn out to be good or not is yet to be answered. When this type of activity is going on do you really think there is ever going to be a chance of banning signups to under 18s?
Not to mention the fact that it wouldn't make good business sense for FB to do it anyway - and they are in the world of business...
A far better option is to encourage (or force using legislation?) FB to use better privacy options and create better tools for parents to see their children's online activities. Maybe accounts for younger kids should have to be set up by an existing account holder and the child accounts tied to the master account. I'm sure they are more than capable of building this type of system at FB - but it boils down to whether they see it as a worthwhile investment.