Have you ever wondered why it is that your kids can’t join social media sites like Facebook until they are 13 years of age? Perhaps you thought that it is the social media sites ‘looking out’ for the interests of our children. I know I did a few years back.
Now while I would never cast any doubt on the good intentions of social media networks, the ‘no under 13s rule’ is actually a by-product of US legislation entitled the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA). The legislation came into effect in 2000 and is unapologetically committed to giving parents control over what information is collected from their children online.
The COPPA rule therefore targets operators of all commercial websites and online services aimed at the under 13s as well as website operators with ‘actual knowledge’ they are collecting information from individuals under the age of 13, such as Facebook.
And while the legislation is US-based, websites hosted overseas must comply with COPPA if they are directed to children in the US. So, in summary, if your kids are visiting the same sites that US kids would frequent, then COPPA applies.
Now the vast majority of parents would be completely supportive of the rationale behind this legislation – even if the moaning from their yet-to-be 13 year old is wearing them down. However Mark Zuckerberg, the ‘father of Facebook’ has made it clear that he believes the COPPA legislation should be overturned and that younger children should be allowed on social networking sites like Facebook. He has also expressed his determination to change this.
“That will be a fight we take on at some point. My philosophy is that for education you need to start at a really, really young age.”
No-one can dispute Mark Zuckerberg’s entrepreneurial skills and business acumen – he’s worth nearly $US30b – yes billion dollars. But as a mother of four boys who are particularly interested in the online world, I completely disagree with his desire to change these rules. As a society, we have a fundamental responsibility to protect our children. Guarding our children’s identities, their digital reputations and most importantly, keeping them safe are, without doubt, some of the highest priorities for me as a mother.
So, yes – let’s absolutely educate our kids about the online world. Let’s explain the pitfalls, hazards and dangers. But let’s not put them at risk all in the name of education!!
‘Till Next Time
Stay Safe Online