Facebook. Instagram. Twitter. Google and so many others. The minimal age for teenagers to use Social Media, is 13. Not because companies want to protect our youngsters from whatever they might find online, but mostly because of a little piece of legislation, called COPPA or Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.
In short: the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act keeps companies from gathering information on their users that are younger than 13. The idea is to protect the child’s privacy. Since it’s difficult for companies to decide which users are younger than 13 and which are not, they came up with the rule that no kid under 13 is allowed to have an account with their social media platform or their email service.
What happens if they do?
Reality is that a lot of children under 13 get online and get themselves a Facebook-account or an email address from either Google (Gmail) or Microsoft (Outlook). So, a logical question is: what happens when one of these companies discovers an account of someone who may be younger than 13?
If it is accepted, they suspend the account until an adult proves they are the legal guardian of the said child and give their consent. This has to be done based on official documents, which always takes time.
The age of 13 is therefore not set in stone by our legislator, but is devised by the different companies to make sure they can’t be sued when a parent discovers their children are on that social platform.
While 13 is the legal age, there are other things to take into account. After all, seeing the number of -13 year-olds on social media, it’s safe to say most don’t get discovered.
The biggest problem we nowadays face is that we’re more and more dependent on technology and internet. We all want accounts on Facebook or Twitter to communicate with our friends. We all need internet to find information.
Kids and teenagers need it as much as they need oxygen to breathe. Yet, as a parent you want to do what is correct.
So these are a few pointers you can use to decide whether your child or teenager is ready to go online.
- What is it he / she wants to do?
- Go online together with them.
- Play games – it’s a beautiful way to connect
- Make sure you are available in case something goes wrong
- Don’t make a big deal out of something that went wrong; especially not if they came to you first.
The only thing you have to make sure of, is that your child isn’t stressed when he or she goes online and discovers these social media platforms. As long as they don’t use their own real birthsdays, they can set up these accounts. Just make sure you have the necessary rules in place and talk about they can do and what you prefer they don’t do. Especially when they want to befriend others.