Limitations on Social Media Age Restrictions.
When it comes to staying safe online, schools in the UK are encouraging open discussion and lessons in Internet Safety. However, when it comes to Social Media, regardless of the age-restrictions, parents are still allowing their children to join social networking sites such as Facebook. According to Ofcom almost 25% of children aged between 8 and 12 years have a profile on networking sires such as Facebook. Facebook’s FAQ clearly states that they will delete any accounts for those under 13 years old, but it doesn’t appear that they are actively looking for them. Rather, they wait for them to be reported, putting responsibility firmly in the hands of the users. It seems to be the case that this age cutoff policy really only exists to circumvent the requirements of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
Facebook for Children?
That said, the rumour mill has been whirring (once again) that Facebook are testing out new policies and controls to link parental and child accounts, which include parental controls to allow their children to “friend” others. This may not happen for some time, but does give rise to the question “How safe is safe enough?”
The question still remains, especially when you consider that responsible parents who are already keeping an eye on their child’s Internet presence will just have a different way of doing things. Will it be better? Who knows, but if you consider that many children are getting around the age restrictions on the website by simply lying about their birthdate, this activity and the policing that surrounds it would have to be much better before I, as a parent, would allow my child to use it.
Is 13 old enough?
Which raises another question. If your child is 13, does that mean they are ready and able to use adult judgment when it comes to issues concerning social media, such as posting photographs, sharing information about their daily life, and joining groups? As responsible as some children aged 13 are (with the emphasis on SOME children), treating them as adults and relying on them to be safe online is asking just a little too much. Parents can do their best, but with more and more kids of a certain age using smart phones and tablets to access the internet, a parent would have to follow their child around 24/7 if they wanted to be sure that no harm would come to them online.
What to do, and who’s responsible
When it comes to social networking for children, who really is responsible for their safety? Should it be the government, the parent, or the social networking site itself? Perhaps one solution would be to allow a new network, with stringent policing of age restrictions, to include age related content in specific age groups, developed in part by child safety campaigners. However no such network exists yet and Facebook, for the time being, are not responsible, so the responsibility of the safety of children online absolutely must lie with the parents.
Do you know anyone who has let their child on Facebook below the age restrictions?
Jo Jeffries is a mum of three and the founder of Writemums – Providing copywriting, design and admin services to businesses, whilst helping professional women work around their children.