Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Facebook and statistics - On the internet not everything is what it seems

According to official Facebook statistics there are over 400 million users of Facebook. And it continues to grow.  Google are sufficiently freaked to have launched the rival Buzz service without properly figuring out the implications


People are talking about the fact that soon most internet activity will take place through Facebook and apparently Facebook users tend to stay online within Facebook longer so the company has huge influence over the internet.
A lot is being said about it. However I have noticed a problem with Facebook statistics.

Facebook has a policy barring children under 13 from opening an account but in fact a large percentage of  primary school children in Israel have Facebook accounts - and they are all under 13.  How do they do it?  They lie about their age.  If you ask the children how old they are on Facebook you get some very amusing answers, raging from just over 13 to over 100.  How many of Israeli Facebook users are underage?  Nobody knows. Official Statistics assume everyone is telling the truth about their age.   see stats here.

Children spend a lot of time online - mostly playing games and that's what they do in Facebook.  It allows them to communicate with their friends while playing computer games or actually play with other children from their bedrooms. So it's no wonder that Facebook users are spending so much time online.  Many of them are children.

There is a possibility that as children grow older they will mature with Facebook and make it a huge powerhouse but they may metamorphose to new online outlets and decide Facebook is no longer cool.  In the mean time there is a problem.  If Facebook users are younger then presumed the company can do less to protect them from inappropriate content or efforts to exploit them financially.




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