Why Now, Facebook?

(originally published June 2012)

It was recently announced that Facebook is considering methods to allow kids under 13 to set up profiles on their site. As most people know, kids under 13 are already doing that, rather frequently with their parents’ knowledge and guidance, by setting acceptable birth date years to allow them in.

There is good and bad in this, as with anything that involves kids of formative ages, and there are strong feelings on both sides of this discussion. The issue is, however, it’s already happening.

Whether or not you believe children under 13 should be on social networking platforms is not the issue. The undeniable issues is that kids of that age ARE and HAVE been, both on dedicated ones for children (remember Webkins?) and standard ones, part of this technology. Even AOL over a decade ago set up a dedicated version for kids. That is the world these children will be maturing into, so that is part of what we, as a society and parents must be prepared to understand and navigate.

The question isn’t why is Facebook considering modifying their policy and platform to allow for this, the question is why now. They’ve been aware of the usage and options for years now.

It could be that the folks over at Facebook have been a little busy, what with getting the whole IPO thing together, and of course then there was that elaborate wedding that had to be planned.

Could it be that this is tied to the income and revenue? Could it be that children of that age are a desirable target demographic for their deep pocketed advertisers? (Don’t gasp in horror, if you’ve ever bought a licensed toy, went to Disney, or tried to bribe your toddler even to eat foods with recognizable characters on the box then you know how powerful a demographic it is.)

Getting children aware of and educated on social media platforms is again, a double-edged sword, but this is their world and they will need to know how to navigate it. But getting children in a place where they can be marketed to directly is an entirely new avenue that Facebook hasn’t currently offered its advertisers.

It’s also a good idea to get them early, before they run off to another social media network, which they are already doing. Some have been going back to MySpace, which began as a place for the younger set, while others are making video chat companies sit up and think, growing their own fully interactive social media platforms.

Facebook wants this audience. And it’s not to educate them and get them in touch
with each other. They want them for their demographic.

That’s why now.

What do you think? Would your brand be willing to pay extra to target this demographic?