A patent application filed by Facebook has revealed that the company is working on a way to allow children under the age of 13 to join the social network. Child accounts would have strict privacy controls and parental permission would be needed to approve certain actions.
Any plans the company has have to satisfy the US Children's Online Privacy Protection Act which prohibits children under 13 from using any online services that collect data without explicit "verifiable parental consent".
According to the patent, filed back in November 2012, parents would have to verify their identity and relationship with the child before an under-13's account could be created.
Facebook has had the current age limit in place since September 2006, although in an interview in 2011, CEO Mark Zuckerberg mentioned that he hoped the limit would be eliminated in the future. According to Fortune, he told NewSchools Venture Fund's Summit: "That will be a fight we take on at some point. My philosophy is that for education you need to start at a really, really young age."
Facebook currently removes underage children from the service through a tiered screening process, with 800,000 preteens removed in 2012 alone. However, according to data from Consumer Reports, 7.5m users remain below the age limit, with many accounts created with the help of parents.