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22 Dec 2011 - Daily Mail: More than half of under-13s have an illegal Facebook account (after their parents helped them to sign up)

More than half of children aged 12 have a Facebook account despite age restrictions put in place by the social networking giant, a survey has revealed.

Facebook's guidelines state no-one under 13 is allowed a profile on the site, but a recent study found that 55 per cent of 12-year-olds are registered, often with the help of their parents.

A New York University survey found that of the 55 per cent who have Facebook pages, 76 per cent of them registered with the help of their parents.

A third of the parents of 11-year-olds and 19 per cent of the parents of 10-year-olds reported their child has an account.

In the study over 1,000 parents nationwide, many said they did not have an issue with their children having a profile on the site, despite the age restrictions.

Marc Smerling, 48, from Brooklyn, said he has no problem with his 12-year-old son Mason using Facebook.

He told the New York Daily News: 'All his friends are on it. They’ve given up on e-mail. We keep our computer in a public area. When he’s on, there’s always a parent there.

'Mr Smerling added that the restrictions put in place by Facebook are futile and near-impossible to execute.

He added: 'It’s unenforceable. It’s like having a big bowl of candy and not letting them have any. The internet is everywhere around us. You can’t get away from it.

'You just have to have a long conversation about the rules.'

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has previously spoken of his desire to see the site's age restriction lifted. Currently the Facebook age limit is set by the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act which was made Federal Law in America in 1998.

But Zuckerberg said in May he wants to fight to change the law, citing the 'educational' benefits of using the site as justification. He said: '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. 'Because of the [legal] restrictions we haven't even begun this learning process. 'If they're lifted then we'd start to learn what works.'

Earlier this year focus groups for Credos, a think tank which advises the advertising industry, reported that 80-90 percent of under 13s were signed up to Facebook in Britain. Figures released in June from the Advertising Association claim Facebook has 988,000 under-12s on the site in the UK.