A friend of mine told me that her 11-year-old daughter has an account both on Facebook and Instagram. “Age limit in those services is actually 13”, I said. “Oh, is it? But all of her friends are using them, too”, she shrugged.
It might seem irrelevant – and very American – that popular social media services have an age limit of 13. Was it up to the companies behind themselves, there wouldn’t be age restrictions at all. Why do they exist then?
It’s a requirement, not a recommendation
It’s actually a law Facebook and Instagram are dealing with. The mandate for age limit comes from USA’s federal law COPPA, The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. According to the law, sites that collect personal information, such as whole name and email address, aren’t allowed to sign on anyone under the age of 13.
So, it’s forbidden in the law for kids under 13 to use some social media services. Even though companies don’t like the law, they want users to obey. For example Facebook emphasizes the age limit is a requirement instead of a recommendation.
Companies don’t like the law.
Alcohol is not for kids either
However, there are other factors than law that justify having age limits. Compare it with alcohol for instance. You probably won’t let your underage kid drink alcoholic beverages. Why? Yes, it’s prohibited by the law. But it’s also not meant for kids, right?
Exactly the same goes for social media services. Most of them are targeted to youth and grown-ups. Decisions like when, how and to whom to reveal personal information are not something kids should make themselves.
It makes sense that kids don’t enter the adult world too soon. It makes sense to have extra protection when it comes to young children’s privacy.
What do you think? Is it ok if your 11-year-old becomes friends with an online acquaintance with her full identity? Is it in general fine that she spends time in a community with grown-ups?