I have always felt that Facebook can and should be used as a teaching and learning tool by adults as well as kids. It's not just for all the other stuff we get up to on it -- you know what I'm talking about! Now Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, has shared his similar views on this matter.
You might be thinking, what the heck is wrong with yours truly? What the heck is wrong with Mark Zuckerberg even? Facebook is not an educational tool; it's a social tool! It's for goofing off, not serious stuff like education. Leave Facebook for what it was meant for; i.e. socializing.
There is some truth to this, I suppose; Facebook was not originally meant for teaching and learning. You would know this, if you have ever seen The Social Network (great movie, by the way). In light of the latest research on using Web 2.0 tools for educational purposes, however, we know that social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter do have some pedagogical potential (PDF, 89.3 KB). In other words, there is some educational value that social networking sites can offer. It's not the case at all that learning/teaching and socializing are mutually exclusive.
Even if you concede the point about pedagogical potential, you might still have your doubts as to whether Facebook should be used by kids under 13, and particularly if you want them to use it for educational purposes. On this point, certainly, the United States doesn't think it's a good idea. Hence, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.
The argument that is usually made with regard to this usually focuses on privacy issues and online bullying. Fair enough, I say. These are worrying things, but why do we have be so darn restrictive? Why is it an all or nothing scenario?
No age is too young for teaching and learning, right? If a site like Facebook can help a kid learn Math, Science, English, etc. by making learning into a social activity, why do we have to reject this model so quickly and completely? I think that with a bit of proper guidance, kids can be taught "net etiquette" just like adults, and with a bit of parental supervision, we can see wonders in our children's capacity to learn (and even teach)!
There's a quote by Albert Einstein: "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." If we want our kids to be able to tackle the problems that exist in the world today, maybe we can start by changing some of the fundamentals, like the tired, old ways of teaching and learning.