According to a recent report, social networking site Facebook is exploring ways to eliminate the current, and widely flouted, age restriction for users under 13.

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the move is intended to allow parents to better supervise children on Facebook, and to get a cut of the children’s advertising market.

According to the Associated Press, for example, Facebook may create a type of account for kids that would allow parents to oversee who is “friended” and which applications are allowed.  It would give advertisers access to an impressionable audience.

This has obviously sparked a mixed reaction. Common Sense Media officials claim that it would raise privacy issues, while offering no “meaningful social or educational value of Facebook for children under 13.”

“What Facebook is proposing is similar to the strategies used by Big Tobacco in appealing to young people — try to hook kids early, build your brand, and you have a customer for life,” according to the CEO of Common Sense Media, James Steyer.  "Besides, do we really need another venue where companies can market junk food and plastic toys to our kids?"

However, according to a report from MinorMonitor, a kids' media watchdog group, a recent survey of 1,000 parents of Facebook users showed that 38 percent of children already on Facebook are under 13.  Other sources estimate about 7.5 million underage users are on the social media network.

Facebook officials released a statement that “Many recent reports have highlighted just how difficult it is to enforce age restrictions on the Internet, especially when parents want their children to access online content and services.”

Do you think that new safeguards for parents who allow their children on Facebook would be beneficial, with the trade-off that Facebook begins to allow advertising to children?  Or should they continue to restrict the site to children 13 and older, ignoring the privacy and safety issues that goes along with unregulated use?

Leave your comments below.