The Importance of Social Media Age Restrictions

Jul 27, 2017

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The data is in, kids enjoy social media. The studies confirm it.

In fact, 89% of teens ages 13 to 17, according to Pew Research, reported using at least one social media site and 71% reported use of more than one site. Did you know that Just about every social media site allows users to sign up when they reach 13 years of age?.

Your child's friends are on the websites, talking about media they saw on the websites, sharing their experiences and stories on the websites. The “happening” stuff is happening online, and kids want to be a part of the hub. Naturally, kids under the age of 13 want to engage in this as well. And they are.

A study by knowthenet.org.uk found that about 59% of children have used a social network by the age of 10. Signing up for platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram underage is not difficult. Birthdays are easily faked to inflate ages and companies very rarely monitor this or even do anything about it.

Parents may pause at the thought of their younger children using social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and rightly so. A child tapping into a network shared by billions of people worldwide and trying to navigate safely is an intimidating thought.

Why Are Age Restrictions Needed?

There is a biological importance to age restrictions. One could raise the question, are we ever developed enough to have our words and actions cemented into a history book accessible to the whole world? I doubt very many people are. But before the age 13, the implications of being exposed to this, living history book called the internet are amplified. At around age 12, biologically, most kids have not developed robust enough cognitive functions for impulse control or ethical thinking.

Understanding the effect of a post on social media is beyond the cognitive grasp of a young mind, and any mistake or misjudgment cannot be wiped from the online slate thereby potentially effecting their future. Moreover, if a child is targeted by harassers or predators, their limited ability to handle such a situation at a young age may put them in danger, both mentally and physically.

Along with issues of kid’s undeveloped brains and responsibility, there are legal ramifications when kids falsify their age to create a social media account. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is designed to protect the personal information of children under 13 online. Companies are required to notify and receive permission from parents to collect personal information from kids. The act also bars companies from collecting images or video that could identify the child. The protections outlined in COPPA are not extended to children under the age of 13 but claiming they are 13 to open an account. When a child signs up for an account with a falsified birth date, they are outside the reach of protection offered by the act and their personal information is at risk.

Keeping Kids Safe

Age restrictions on social media platforms are in place to keep kids safe. Unfortunately, violating these restrictions is simple and easy. When young kids falsify their age and use social media, they are often too young to understand the implications of their posts or effectively handle dangerous situations, and cannot be protected by laws directed at the safety of youth online. Luckily, parental control software, like Net Nanny, is a proven method to restricting monitor your children’s access to social media until they are responsible and ready.