Facebook, the social networking app used by 1.8 billion people globally, does not provide figures for how much of that audience is comprised of minors — that is, people under the age of 18 (and theoretically over the age of 13). But chances are that these days it’s a significant number, when you consider some news out from the company today: Facebook is launching a new parent portal, aimed at helping adults navigate their minor charges through Facebook’s social media landscape.
To be clear, this is not a set of guidelines that will teach parents younger people’s lingo or give them insight into what their kids want out of the world or out of Facebook today; or give them a way of monitoring or deleting their kids’ accounts. (As Facebook has said before, privacy laws forbid this.)
Instead, this is a set of safety guidelines, as well as resources to help first-time Facebook users, specifically younger people who want to sign up and get to grips with Facebook.
Living in the Safety section of the site (which itself was updated in October), the parents portal sits right under the guidelines for coping with online bullying.
It includes basics like how to register on Facebook for the first time, import contacts, and post on your timeline. It also provides some basic safety tips such as how to create a secure password, how to block content and how to report content. It provides links to report accounts that are held by people under the age of 13.
And there is also a section of tips for parents to help them figure out Facebook fits into their wider world of parenting do’s and don’ts and general online safety. Included are also links to internet advocacy groups that focus on shaping and carrying out policies related to children online.
The parenting portal is being rolled out in 50 languages, and it looks like Facebook is trying to bring in support groups from all over the world as part of this effort.
The move to open a parent portal comes at an interesting time for the company.
While Facebook itself doesn’t talk about how many younger people use it, surveys have found that these days Facebook is not the most popular app among teens.
Yet it’s clearly a demographic that Facebook (like all ad-based online media properties) would like to tap for more users and usage.
Other efforts from Facebook to court younger users, like its Lifestage app, have flopped. Launched earlier this year, the iOS version app currently ranks at 945 in the U.S. according to App Annie, and the Android version doesn’t make the rankings at all.
Facebook’s main purpose may be about setting out guidelines for minors all in one place (up to now, Facebook has offered some advice throughout different areas of its support and help pages, with no single, central point of reference).
But the parents portal is indirectly also another way to bring in more young users: get parents familiar with how to get their over-13 children on the social network, show them that it’s not scary, and Facebook may find it opens the door to more younger people coming to its platform.