The Big Idea: Facebook's minimum age should be 21

By John D. Sutter, CNN

(CNN) --- The U.S. legal drinking age is 21. Should Facebook have the same requirement?

Plenty of people light-heartedly say the 900-million-person social network is "addictive," since so many of us spend hours a day checking up on what our Facebook friends are doing.

But following a Monday story about whether Facebook should allow children younger than 13 to join the site -- since stats show they're on Facebook anyway and Facebook reportedly is considering implementing parental controls that could allow it to lower the minimum age -- some of CNN's commenters fired back, saying that the minimum age should not be lowered.

In fact, they said, it should be raised.

    "No. Flying Green Monkeys. No," commenter AnneV99 wrote in response to our question about whether 11-year-olds should be allowed to join Facebook. "In fact, raise the age limit to 21. Why? Because many parents and teachers are already teaching their children to be irresponsible. But what is Facebook --- It is all about ME-ME-ME. Facebook = Sickness (but not as bad as that evil-Twitter thing)."

    The point of view is more than a little ironic considering Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was 19 when he launched thefacebook.com from his Harvard dorm room in 2004. If AnneV99's rule were actually put into place, the site's own creator wouldn't have been able to use it.

    Perhaps more realistically, several other commenters called for Facebook to create a minimum age of 18. Here's a sampling:

    JustJen: No one under 18 should be allowed. There's too much potential for harm, and children cannot protect themselves. No, not even with parents looking over their shoulder. It's just too risky. I don't use it either. I agree with the previous poster that it's toxic.

    Think4yourse: I dont believe anyone under the age of 18 should be doing anything unsupervised over the internet. Simple to see why. Look at the US before the internet, and look at it now. Id have to scoff at anyone who will say today is better as far as the attitude of our children go.

    camelspyder: It is a major turnoff that kids have a facebook page. No one under 18 should be on it. Facebook has become another Myspace and the only difference I see is you can't add music to your page. And parents wonder why their kids get bullied by kids they don't even know and stalked by pedophiles online. I don't even log on unless I really need to contact an old friend or relative. Other than that Facebook does not fit my active lifestyle.

    snowyowl: I think FB should be banned for anyone under 18.  Put teeth into it and hold FB accountable.

    And, a personal favorite:

    666efg: As a witness to what facebook does to young teens, I vote NO NO NO ... they should change it to 18. ever since my niece has got a facebook her life has become DRAMA at school, the kids cuss, talk about drugs, sex .. its horrible.. some parents don't pay attention to their kids facebook.

    Oh, the DRAMA. Some commenters went even further, saying that anyone -- of any age -- would be nuts to have a Facebook page:

    whodey: Joining Facebook at 11, or at 21, 31, or 41 - it's all questionable.

    Finally, the parents. There were plenty of naysayers in the comments section of our story -- people who express their views on 11-year-olds on Facebook by capitalizing the word "NO" and employing multiple exclamation points. But several people who described themselves as parents wrote in to say their under-13 kids are on Facebook and that, with their supervision, everything works out just fine. Data from Microsoft Research suggest many, if not a majority in some cases, of young kids are on Facebook, and that many of their parents actually help them lie about their age to join the site.

    Here's what a few of the more lenient parents had to say:

    Mark Davies: I wouldn't have a problem with my children (both going on 11) using FB. However, I would setup the controls myself (i.e. parental, only friends can see, etc.) and monitor closely. The same way I would with a 13 year old (or older).

    dv62: I am not a fan of kids on the internet but they are. I know many that are not old enough that have accounts. If it is controlled and parents are interactive, then it is just another form of communication for kids. They use cell phones with all the bells and whistles which is harder to control than Facebook. No matter how we look at it, parents need to be aware of what their kids do. They are already on the internet and Facebook, make it a safe zone.

    Bill MacDonald: My son is on Facebook and is perfectly safe as we follow rules.. My seven year old will also have an account if allowed. Parents monitor what they do and where they go on the net Parents can see their friends and eliminate those that they do not really know. But it is a great introduction to technology which some of you may realise... is here! I can not believe this is an issue.

    Have more to say? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section. For context, check out our original story and another from the WSJ.