Almost all social media platforms, apps and anything else associated with the world wide web, require a child to be over the age of 13 to sign up for an account. The reason for that is so they don’t have to follow and comply with COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act). COPPA was established in the 90’s by the Federal Trade Commission to protect the privacy of children under the age of 13 on any internet platform. If you would like to the read more, you can. I’ll even put the website link at the bottom of this post. By requiring users to be 13 or older, they bypass the requirements needed to comply with COPPA.
Blah, blah, blah…okay, so did you know most kids ages 8-12 have a social media account of some sort; Snapchat, Musical.ly, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube among the most popular. The question is, do you know if they have the account? Hahaha, how many of you went racing for your kid’s phone or tablet or at least thought about doing that just now? Before you do, think about it, if you don’t know they have it, you won’t find it that easily. Melaina has spent a lot of time with me over the years telling and showing me how kids get around their parents knowing they have an account.
Let’s state the obvious and get that out of the way. If your kid is under the age of 13, and they have an Apple ID or Google account, of their own, not that belongs to you; one or both of you knowingly ‘lied’ about their age to make that account. That would be me. Yup. Now before you all start commenting on how bad of a parent I am, remember the tagline on this blog includes fails. Just hold onto to your angst for a minute and read how I handled ‘lying to cheat the system.’
First and foremost, Melaina has had my permission and in most cases, my help in creating her digital fingerprint. Although in her case, she has so many, it’s more like a handprint. She also knows, lying will get her nowhere in this household. Period. I have set up strict guidelines on her social media access, what she can watch, who she can follow, what she shouldn’t post and why. Also a parenting app that allows me to control the amount of time on apps, content ratings that can be downloaded and even set a schedule. Has she screwed up? Yup. Sure has. Have I slacked? Yup. But we talked about what she did that wasn’t a good choice and what would be a better choice. I used to spend a significant amount of time trolling her phone while waiting for her to fall asleep at night. I’m pretty selfish with my me time, so I solved that by signing up for what feels like every stinking site, service, app that is popular with tweens/teens. I follow or friend her on those sites, and many, many friends of hers as well. As a rule I don’t interfere, repeat or screen shot anything unless I feel it is specifically targeted as mean or bullying behavior toward someone. I do spend a lot of time reading the comments, watching the stories, but at the same time it is during my me time which is for reading anyway. It doesn’t matter to me what I read, I just want to read.
If you read that COPPA thing, and yes, I did. You will see a lot of parental consent thrown around. Parental consent is used by those sites that will require a parent or guardian’s consent to let a child under the age of 13 use their site when information will be collected by users. Most of those are geared toward young kids. You’ve probably gotten a few of those emails before when your kid signed up for something and it emails the parent for permission. By making a required user age of 13+, they don’t need the permission of a parent to allow the child to make an account and collect user information. So, if I’m giving permission to my under 13 year old and keeping track of what is posted by them or viewed, I’m not lying, I’m giving parental consent. Weak argument? Depends on the opinion of the person you ask. But again, I’m parenting the best that I can and the best for our household. In the name of research I did reach out to a couple of app developers and ask how I could provide parental consent for a child under the age of 13 to sign up for and use their service. If I don’t have the info before this post goes live, I will for sure put it in a future update post.
When Melaina first began asking about joining social media, the answer was a steadfast no. She tried to be sneaky and got it on Nana’s phone with her info. I made her delete it. None of that. Period. Not without my say so. She has earned back the access to that account since, but it was not an easy road. We sat down and went over all the scary stuff we are warned about with social media. I made a contract. We all read it and signed it. Now that I think about it, I should update that. Last school year our district held a seminar for internet and social media safety for middle and high-school students and their parents. We are a very large district with four middle schools, three high-schools, a specialty school for advanced middle school students one for high school students and a performing arts school. Are you sitting down? Nine, yes nine parents/families showed up. It was held in the performing arts auditorium, local law enforcement, school counselors set to speak on stage and there were nine of us there. That concerned me more than any of the other stuff brought up here.
Be sure to follow this blog as the next several posts will deal with some of the more popular social media platforms individually and in more depth.