Facebook continues to be immensely popular even though the number of people using the social media site on a daily basis dipped slightly to 1.4 billion in the company’s latest earnings report. The site has also been under intense scrutiny of late.
There has been the controversy over a new algorithm affecting its News Feed, the cry from health experts to shut down Messenger for kids and outright criticism after a former executive said the site was “ripping apart” society.
What’s the best age to join Facebook? Nearly 80% of parents want to decide
For Safer Internet Day, which was observed on February 6, Facebook published a survey showing that 77% of parents said that they should be the arbiter on deciding what age their child should be able to engage online.
The findings indicate that many parents are becoming increasingly comfortable with basing their kids’ exposure to the internet on their own varying levels of maturity. On the surface, the poll’s results may also buck years of research done by social networking companies on age standards appropriate for their respective sites.
The companies have always posted recommended ages for users of their products. Most recently, Facebook’s suggestion that its Messenger app for kids is suitable for children as young as six prompted particular pushback. But it raises the question: What is the best age for children to join social media?
How young is too young for social media?
Here’s what various social networks say about age-appropriateness:
“Facebook requires everyone to be at least 13 years old before they can create an account (in some jurisdictions, this age limit may be higher),” according to the website. “Creating an account with false info is a violation of our terms. This includes accounts registered on the behalf of someone under 13.”
Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, also requires users to be at least 13. “If your child is younger than 13 and created an account on Instagram, you can show them how to delete their account,” the site says.
Snapchat also lists a minimum age of 13 for signing up. Previously, when registering for the site, if the person listed their age as under 13 they were redirected to SnapKidz, a sister site that didn’t allow sharing or adding friends. Now it just refuses your registration.
As much as we tried, we couldn’t find any age requirement information for Twitter. The site reportedly dropped minimum age requirements when it updated its Terms of Service in 2009. The company does, however ,employ what they call “age screening,” which prompts new registrants to list their age so that brands can effectively target them, the company says on its website.
Money expert Clark Howard says that although companies have a huge role, it is parents’ primary responsibility to safeguard their children’s privacy online.
That’s because no matter which social site you allow your child to use, the tech companies that run them have set guidelines not so much to protect youths’ exposure to inappropriate content but rather to not run afoul of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
COPPA, which is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, mandates that companies get parental consent before accessing certain information from children under 13. Once they turn 13, though, it becomes much harder for parents to protect their privacy online.
Here are 3 protections tech companies must provide to parents
There are a number of safeguards companies must follow when a child’s privacy is at stake, according to COPPA. Here are a few of them:
- Direct notice: Parents must be given “direct notice” of a company’s data practices before they collect personal info from kids. Any amendment to those practices must be sent to the parents.
- Verifiable consent: Before a company collects, uses or sells personal info from a child, they must get a parent’s “verifiable consent.” The thing is, the government doesn’t specify how this should be done. The FTC literally tells the companies, “COPPA leaves it up to you,” so that tells you that not too much thought has been put into the means of correspondence.
- Right of revocation: Parents also must be given a way to review the personal info that companies have collected from their child. They also have a right to revoke their consent and delete the information collected by such companies.
Those are just a few of the steps that companies must adhere to when it involves your child’s personal information. Here are some other ways to keep your child safe online.
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