Every year media regulator Ofcom releases an annual ‘Children and Parents: Media and Attitudes Report‘. One of the stories picked up by the media this year was that “Half of children aged 11 and 12 have a social media profile, despite most platforms’ minimum age being 13, a study from regulator Ofcom suggests.”
From my book Raising Children in a Digitial Age, p84-85:
“It seems clear that children are starting to go onto the internet at a younger and younger age. Many sites, including Facebook and Twitter, state in their terms of agreement that no under-thirteens are permitted on them. This is tied in particularly with US laws that forbid the collection of data from children under thirteen, but also reflects child development theories that suggest that children are not emotionally developed enough to engage in a healthy manner before this age. In the UK, Australia, and elsewhere there is no legal reason why thirteen years should be the minimum age, but children will be breaking site terms and conditions if they join.”
“The CHILDWISE “Digital Lives” Report 2010 noted that children encountered different degrees of parental involvement in joining Facebook. Some children used their parents’ page and then set up their own with parental support; another child set up an account after asking their parents’ permission, while yet another child set up an account before asking permission. Some did not tell their parents at all. The report highlighted that although many parents knew there was an age restriction on Facebook, they thought that eleven was a more appropriate age (this was echoed in a range of answers in the questionnaire). For those who do choose to allow their children to join before thirteen (and it’s worth thinking about what message this sends about abiding by rules and regulations), it’s worth setting the privacy settings high. Know your child’s password, check whom they are friends with, and ensure (through discussion) that they are using Facebook appropriately.”
The Children’s Commissioner has since been in conversation with the social networks trying to work on this, but as I wrote on p87:
“Facebook has admitted that it is powerless to stop underage users signing up. This highlights a bigger problem online: children are pretending to be sixteen- or eighteen-year-olds to get around the restrictions, and therefore are exposed to unsuitable material. Research shows that this problem is increasing, and there are, as yet, no effective technological measures in place to deal with it.”
Companies are working on age verification processes, but they’re not there yet!
There’s a summary of the new report from Ofcom, and I liked this diagram from it:
Read the full report on Ofcom.