Facebook does not currently allow those under the age of 13 to join the website, but under the new plans parents would verify their own identity and relationship with the child before allowing the child to create an account. Parents would then be able to restrict access to particular content, third-party applications (such as Farmville and Candy Crush) and friends.

Facebook told The Guardian: ‘Child safety advocates, policy-makers and companies have discussed how best to help parents keep their kids safe online. Like any responsible company, we looked at ways to tackle this issue, but a patent application based on two year old research is not a predictor of future work in this area.’