10 years of Facebook: How has it impacted kids’ health?

Last week marked 10 years since the launch of Facebook – a website created by a college student that has since become a social media juggernaut boasting over 1 billion active monthly users.

In the past decade, Facebook has been a major contributor to the changing digital landscape. But with the rise in popularity of social networking, smartphones, and Wi-Fi-connected devices, children’s health issues like cyber-bullying and internet safety have also risen in people’s minds. In fact, internet safety has been consistently named one of the top 10 health problems facing kids in the U.S. in the annual National Poll on Children’s Health Top 10 Report.

In today’s new normal of social media connectivity, what can be done to protect kids from dangers like loss of privacy, predators, and online bullying? For children under age 13, there’s the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). COPPA was put in place in 1998 to prevent websites from collecting personal information about users under age 13. But 1998 was six years before Facebook came on the scene and social networking and smartphones became part of the daily lives of many children and teens.

We asked adults in a 2012 NPCH Report for their opinions on potential updates for COPPA. Adults expressed strong support for extending COPPA protections to include mobile apps. Read the full report: Public supports expanded Internet safety requirements to protect kids.

Infographic: Public support for proposed updates to the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)
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COPPA was updated in July, 2013 to prohibit collecting geolocation information, photographs, and videos from children under age 13 without parental consent. But what about users who are older than 13 but still children? While Facebook doesn’t allow kids under age 13 to create accounts, Facebook is part of the daily lives of many 13-17-year olds – and in November of 2013, Facebook relaxed its rules for those users, allowing them to make public posts.

This year, 21% of adults across the country said internet safety is a big problem for kids in their communities. Whether it’s social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter that put kids at risk, or other websites and apps, it’s clear that the public sees a need for intervention.

What are your thoughts on social media and kids’ health? If you’re a parent, how do you manage your children’s interest in social networking and promote safe media use?