According to Consumer Reports, “[m]ore than 5 million children ages 10 and under – well below Facebook’s minimum age of 13 – use the service[.]” The Wall Street Journal reports that Facebook apparently recognizes that reality (and potential?) by scrapping its prohibition on use by minors, and is “developing technology that would allow children younger than 13 years old to use the social networking site under parental supervision, a step that could help the company tap a new pool of users for revenue but also inflame privacy concerns.”
It is bad enough that our teenagers and young adults are sacrificing some inter-personal and writing skills for the sake of being embedded 24/7 in texts and other online social networking. Now we really want our 7-year olds choosing Facebook over Elmo?
Employer Take Away: What should you as an employer take away from this development?
Yes, there is an employment law message in here. Sometimes social media is the issue itself for the blog, and, sometimes, it is the impetus for raising a more general employment law issue. Today, it’s the latter.
Facebook may be bending its own terms of service to suit itself when it comes to minors, but that doesn’t mean that your company can. While states may have more restrictive requirements, you should keep in mind the following federal requirements when it comes to the employment of minors:
- Under the age of 14 à May not be employed.
- Between 14 and 16 years of age à Limited employment is ok in certain occupations, other than manufacturing and mining, provided that the employment is during periods that do not interfere with school, and the employment does not expose the child to conditions that are harmful to health and well-being.
- 17 years of age à Limited employment is ok in certain occupations that are not deemed to be particularly hazardous.
- 18 years of age and older à May be employed.