Facebook is experiencing a demographic crisis. Teen app usage has dropped by 13% since 2019, and it is expected to decrease another 45% in the next two years.
"Aging is a real issue," a researcher said in an internal document that went public last week. According to a recent document provided to Congress by whistleblower Frances Haugen, this is why Facebook was developing new products targeted at children as young as six years old.
“Our company is making a major investment in youth and has spun up a cross-company virtual team to make safer, more private, experiences for youth that improve their and their household’s well-being. For many of our products, we historically haven’t designed for under 13 (with the exception of Messenger Kids) and the experiences built for those over 13 didn’t recognize distinctive maturity levels across the age spectrum’’, the internal post from April 9 said.
There's a reason Facebook has avoided targeting children under the age of 13: Τhe Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. COPPA restricts what companies can do to target, collect, and exchange data on children. Companies, for example, are prohibited from revealing data to third parties without parental approval.
Facebook has one product aimed at children under the age of 13, Messenger for Kids, and the company's terms of service state that it does not sell users' information to third parties. However, two years ago a bug in Messenger for Kids allowed users to start group chats with unauthorized users. It took Facebook nearly a year to find the flaw, which was corrected the next day. However, parents were not informed for another month.