A couple of weeks ago, Facebook teamed up with The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Center (CEOP) to develop a “panic button” application for their UK members who are between the ages of 13-18. The development of the “ClickCEOP” app was in response to the pressure that Facebook was receiving from the UK police agency. The button (or application) allows teen Facebook members in the UK to report any instance of cyberbullying, hacking, malicious content, etc to their local police department. This application comes at a prime time considering all of the media hype that’s been surrounding Facebook’s lack of privacy safeguards.
First let me say that though I applaud Facebook for finally taking some initiative with this app, it seems like they’re forgetting about their hundreds-of-millions of users on the other side of the world. To give you an idea of what I mean, it was reported that in January of this year, the UK was home to a little over 23 million active Facebook users. And of those 23 million, about 5.5 million were between the ages of 13-18. Now it’s fair to say that this number has gone up in the last six months, but compared to the 150 million users in the U.S., you can bet that we have more 5.5 million 13-18 year olds. Comparisons aside, taking those numbers into consideration is also accepting the fact that a good amount of those “13-18 year olds” are kids who lied about their age to begin with.
The other problem with this app, and one that a Facebook spokesperson so readily admits, is that users have to opt-in to use it, meaning they have to choose to download it onto their profile. To be honest, I’m a bit confused as to why Facebook couldn’t just make it a mandatory update for all 13-18 year old users in the UK. I checked the app out for myself and I found it to be more than a panic button—more like an education resource for kids to learn about Internet safety and report any instance of it if they need to. That said, I think it’d be a great tool for Facebook to incorporate the ClickCEOP app across the board regardless of location.
Parents, I don’t want to come off as “knocking Facebook” for their efforts, as minimalistic as they are. I think that the partnership that they’ve formed with the CEOP shows that they are at least recognizing and really acknowledging that there is a problem on Facebook for kids and teens specific to what I’ve always talked about: exposure to inappropriate content for kids and people that intend our children harm. But what really bugs me is the fact that, not only do they make it a voluntary decision to take advantage of such a useful tool, but they limit the access to such a small portion of their adolescent user base.