On Facebook, kids and adults can now send real gifts to their virtual friends. By clicking on the red gift icon, friends can send gifts ranging from $5 -$100 including t-shirts, cookies or iTunes cards. All it takes is a credit card.
Facebook’s Terms of Service allows kids under 18 to buy a gift with a credit card and “the involvement of a parent or guardian.” Facebook appears to assume any kid with a credit card has the involvement of a parent since they do not ask for any other information. This is a safe assumption but even involved parents may not know their credit card stays with their kid’s profile. Once entered, the card information is automatically linked to their account for future use.
Kids have gotten in trouble before with Facebook and credit cards. In 2009, Facebook began Facebook credits. Members could use these credits to purchase virtual items within games. Last April, several parents sued Facebook for allowing kids under 18 to buy credits then saving the payment information on their account. As a result, their kids were able to continue to buy credits without their parents permission or knowledge. In one case, the child spent a $1000 on credits.
With kids’ accounts, parents may also need to worry about who else has access to the account. Some kids share their password with friends. Many kids, especially those who use the Facebook app, never log out. In fact, Facebook discourages mobile users from logging out with this ominous message.
Most kids seeing this warning may falsely believe logging out removes the app or deactivates the account so they click “No”. Unfortunately, not logging out leaves the account open.
To be on the safe side, parents should enter and remove their credit card information after each purchase. If kids are using their own debit card they should also remove it. Members can remove credit card information by going to Account Settings.
Finally, the sent gift does appear on their friend’s Timeline. Kids can choose not to share the gift on Timeline by un-checking the Share Gift on [Friend’s] Timeline box at top of the order review page. To be safe, unless the gift is something kids want future employers, recruiters, coaches, teachers and many others to see, they should save inside joke gifts for in-person giving.