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Posted at 9:00 AM ET, 02/10/2011

Facebook: Obama girls too young for Facebook, anyway

By Hayley Tsukayama

The first lady's comments that she doesn't allow her daughters to have Facebook profiles caught some attention after Michelle Obama's interview Wednesday on the "Today" show.

But that's a good thing, the social network said. As The Washington Post's 44 blog pointed out Wednesday, Facebook is only for users 13 and up. Malia Obama, 12, and Sasha Obama, 9 are too young to have Facebook profiles, according to Facebook's own Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.

Andrew Noyes, a spokesman for Facebook, said:

This restriction is both for safety reasons and to comply with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. Facebook has systems in place at the point of sign-up to prevent people who identify themselves as under the age of 13 from creating accounts. It's a violation of our terms to provide false birth date info, and we have community verification systems after sign-up to help ID people who are doing this so we can take appropriate action.

Michelle Obama's statements have drawn praise and criticism from parents across the country.

David Rodriguez, a New York father of a 10-year-old boy, told the New York Daily News, "Safety is my biggest concern. There are a lot of inappropriate things being sent around. You hear about things like the craigslist killings, and it makes you even more hesitant."

Meanwhile, Sylvie Branch, a Yahoo! News contributor, said that she stands by her decision to let her young children use Facebook, with supervision. "Overall, my kids have proved to me that it is possible to use Facebook as the tool that it is and not become obsessed," she said. "The key, I believe, is to keep them engaged in life. The three of them are friends on Facebook and that keeps everyone accountable. My 12-year-old knows that what he says online, can and will be held against him."

By Hayley Tsukayama  | February 10, 2011; 9:00 AM ET
Categories:  Digital culture, Social media  
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When you open this page you get an ad with the sound on. #fail

Posted by: slar | February 10, 2011 10:31 AM | Report abuse

So, Sylvia is basically admitting that she is teaching her young children to BREAK set rules and regulations!
Nice goin'......"mom"

Funny, I just had a phone interview with a MAJOR financial institution and one of their questions was..."what do you do when you do not agree with certain rules and regulations".

Of course, I responded, I follow them, because they are there for a reason.
I got the job!

As for Sylvia's kids....being taught to BREAK the rules/law, etc....good luck later in life!

As for this article....such baloney.
Everyone knows that probably 30-50% of the people on Facebook are UNDERAGE children.
There is NO WAY a parent can supervise their UNDERAGE children's FB behavior - now that FB is accessible on just about every device and every home or playground out there. Mom & Dad are NOT looking over their kid's shoulder while they are on their mobile phone/device...please!

FB WANTS underage kids, because they are most vulnerable to giving up personal info (ever see those quizzes? what is your fav color, who is your fav actor, what is your BIRTHDAY, what princess are you, enter your PHONE NUMBER)

Why doesn't the Post get back to real reporting and journalism and do a story about THAT.....(and so-called "moms" Sylvia...that are only setting their kids up for breaking rules and regs and apparently encouraging them to do so. how sad for them!)

And how FB does NOT care about the safety and security of young, vulnerable, underage children.
They are just another avenue for those who wish to prey on the young and vulnerable to do so.
Now...THAT would be a valuable story.

And...Hoorah! for Mrs. (and Mr.) Obama for recognizing the value of following set rules and for wanting to PROTECT their own children. What a great example!

Posted by: jacie2010 | February 10, 2011 10:59 AM | Report abuse

13 may be the allowable age on Facebook but as parents we need to be attentive to the choice of friends our kids are connecting to and inviting to be their friends.

For all of us who are concerned about Facebook issues we have created the website called Avoid Facebook @

Posted by: admin6666 | February 10, 2011 11:20 AM | Report abuse

13 may be the allowable age on Facebook but as parents we need to be attentive to the choice of friends our kids are connecting to and inviting to be their friends.

For all of us who are concerned about Facebook issues we have created the website called Avoid Facebook @

Posted by: admin6666 | February 10, 2011 11:22 AM | Report abuse

So, basically the mom, Sylvie Branch, says she stands by her decision to "let her young children use Facebook, with supervision." Meaning not only is she telling them that rules are meaningless but has also encouraged / condoned them to provide false information and then "AGREE" to the User Agreement.

No wonder our youth are going to hell in a handbasket

Posted by: sugarbabalicious | February 10, 2011 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Instead of ignoring social why not teach kids to be responsible digital citizens? There is an age appropriate, safe and secure social networking site for kids, check out WhatsWhat.Me and its Parent Resource Center. 

There are organizations out there doing great work keeping kids safe on the internet. The Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) cites that 99% of children ages 8-17 access the internet and spending 25% of their time social networking. The answer isn't keeping kids off the internet, because they are going to be on social networks, regardless if their parents know or not.  Let's teach kids how to be safe on the internet and instead of hiding them from it.

While Facebook is definitely not appropriate for kids under 13 that doesn’t mean these “tweens” should be banned from social networks altogether. WhatsWhat.Me is a safe, secure, “kids-only” social network for “tweens” ages 7-13 – launches today using patent-pending facial recognition technology, moderation and kid-friendly features to teach kids positive online behavior, Internet safety and related life skills. Compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), (Beta) provides an age-appropriate, “no-bullying allowed” community that requires parental permission to join.  For parents, offers its online Parent Resource Center providing expert advice, news, Internet safety tips and information on cybersafety for children.

Posted by: chris_whatswhat | February 10, 2011 4:59 PM | Report abuse

Sylvia, like so many parents, tend to fold to our generation's "parent pressure" from their children. Why have we become the generation that is afraid to tell our children, "NO?" She is naive in her thinking that she can monitor and protect her minor children once they are given the freedom of the access to Facebook. Don't kid yourself. Today's children will outwit and outplay us, and stay one step ahead of us. You have lured yourself into a false sense of security. Mrs. Obama, thank you for making a stand for protecting our children. Facebook was NEVER intended for 12 year old children.

Posted by: cruise0501 | February 11, 2011 12:07 AM | Report abuse

Facebook is not reasonably safe for the average thirteen year old, it is not even reasonably safe for the average mature adult, it is a highly dangerous environment. Facebook is a substantially more threatening and risky environment than a free for all unmoderated forum, since the likes of psychopaths and adherents of extreme political ideologies and adherents of extreme religious groups can operate in a way on Facebook in their interaction with Facebook moderation, which makes it hugely difficult to impossible for other Facebook users who would confront such individuals in argument, to do so effectively. For example, confront Islamists or their fellow travellers on Facebook and your Facebook account will likely last between three hours and three months before being permabanned.

Posted by: Adrian_Wainer | February 11, 2011 3:30 AM | Report abuse

What is a very serious problem on Facebook, is that Facebook appears to be hacked at a top tier systems software level, as what can happen is that if one can argue effectively against Islamists' and their fellow travellers' views and does so, one can continue to post on Facebook but one's postings can be blocked from sight from anyone except one's Facebook friends and oneself. When that is combined with the issue that Facebook moderation will permaban conservative Facebook accounts at a drop of a hat whilst allowing Islamists and their fellow travelers to do stuff like threatening to have other Facebook account holders shot dead and taunt Jewish people about stuffing them in ovens, it becomes simply impossible to argue one's position effectively in opposition to Islamism, if one is in discussion with the likes of Islamists and their FTs on Facebook. The combination of the apparent Facebook system hacking causing postings not to display properly and Facebook's moderation policies, effectively makes it hugely difficult for parents to properly guide and support their children in the use of Facebook, since Facebook pages which would appear to be the sort of pages which would be suitable for say a fourteen year old teenager to many parents, would not in reality be suitable, for example US Senator John Cornyn's Facebook page would pose risks to say a young college student of getting conveyor belted in to supporting Islamic extremism or joining an organization like that operated by Lyndon LaRouche

Posted by: Adrian_Wainer | February 11, 2011 4:11 AM | Report abuse

Some great commentary here - parents are absolutely right to be involved in their children's social networking activity as kids need to learn the ropes about how to conduct themselves online. And while Facebook doesn't permit kids under 13 to join, I'm guessing I'm not the only one who sees kids (relatives, friends' children) on there who are definitely not old enough. Teaching, implicitly or overtly, that it's okay to lie and break the rules in order to get what you want does not seems like a good way to encourage responsibility.

At the same time, the digital world is here in all its glory (and less-than-glorious aspects) and we want our kids to benefit from the interconnectedness, educational, and fun experiences the Internet provides, too. When our kids turn 16, we don't just toss them the car keys and send them down the freeway -- we give them opportunities long before that exciting day to practice and learn about driving in safer conditions. Why not try this approach in the online world, too?

On that note, check out -- a website exclusively for kids and teens under age 17 that offers a huge array of features that kids like: games, contests, opportunities to win scholarship money and real-world prizes, a virtual world, ability to connect with other kids and more.

It's also unique in that Yoursphere genuinely puts kids' online safety first, respecting privacy and providing age-appropriate content while also educating about and rewarding members who demonstrate responsible online behavior.

Love it that they have teen ambassadors who mentor younger kids, a youth advisory board so the site provides features kids actually really like, and opportunities for youth to become paid contributors. Full disclosure: my company is working with Yoursphere to spread the word about this vibrant community, but as a mom I have long endorsed this site to my friends and family: my own youngster was a member way before my company even had the opportunity to become involved. Thanks, jdf

Posted by: jdflaten | February 16, 2011 5:00 PM | Report abuse

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