Social Media Age Requirements

May 1, 2017

Did you know that no one under the age of 13 is permitted to join Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat? Even Youtube limits users under 13 without the consent of a parent. However, there is no real way for these websites to truly enforce it, because anyone can lie about their year of birth. This is a conversation you may need to have with your child, establish an appropriate age for them to start an account. There are some measures put in place, such as reporting an underage child, but ultimately, it should be the parent who has the say on when and if that account gets created.

Of course, there are a lot of parents who allow their children to lie about their age and create user accounts. Many parents feel pressured to allow their children because they don’t their kids to be outcasts or the only ones with strict boundaries. You may find yourself ready to cave in to your kids’ demands and finally allow them to create an account. Maybe they have already created an account and having them delete it now would seem unfair. Or maybe you disagree with age restrictions and don’t see the harm in allowing your child access to social media. Before making your decision, the Huffington Post offers these reasons as to why age matters.

Your Child’s Personal Information is at Risk. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) passed in 1998 protects every child under the age of 13. The Act requires that operators of websites and online services provide notice and obtain permission from a child’s parents before collecting personal information — such as name, address, phone number and screen name — from that child. Companies also cannot collect geolocation data that could identify the city street, and any image, video or audio files containing the child’s image or voice. Anything that can identify what the child is using, like cookies, IP addresses or the unique device identifier (UDID) for mobile devices is restricted by COPPA. But COPPA doesn’t work if a 9-year-old claims they are 13. When a social network account is created for a child under 13, or when a child uses a false birthdate, this Federal law cannot protect their personal information from being collected and shared with third party advertisers.

Children under 13 don’t have the hardware upstairs to make smart decisions online. Just because kids seem tech-savvy at increasingly younger ages, doesn’t necessarily mean that their brains are developing at the same rate as their digital acumen. Research shows that it takes children about 12 years to fully develop the cognitive structures that enable them to engage in ethical thinking. Before 12 it’s difficult, if not impossible, for a child to fully grasp the impact of their actions upon others, online or otherwise. Yet young children are increasingly joining social networking sites, sometimes even putting themselves in harm’s way by becoming victims of online harassment, solicitation, and cyber-bullying before they are ready to respond appropriately.

Lying is just plain wrong. Living in a civilized society means we have some implicit agreements: we take turns, play fair, stop at red lights, and hold the door open for people. And we tell the truth. Sure, giving a fake birthdate to Facebook seems like a harmless white lie, but it’s a lie nonetheless. I’d like to believe we can all agree that honesty and truthfulness, online and off, is important.

Betty Gilbert Middle School

26845 - 27 Avenue, Aldergrove
BC, V4W 3E6
Phone: 604-856-8178
Fax: 604-856-7831