I feel like I’m constantly asked, “When is the right age for my child to get [insert social media app name]?
The answer is really simple: Thirteen.
Why? The Federal Trade Commission says so in a law that governs every social media app and online service. The law is called the Child Online Privacy Protection Rule of 1999.
The point of this post isn’t to convince you of that, I’ve already written extensively about it here.
The point of this post is to point out new amended rules that were enacted in 2013 in direct response to popular social media apps like Vine, Kik, Snapchat, Instagram, etc.
The FTC has added some important clarifications which parents need to know about. And, despite what most parents seem to think, the FTC actually strengthened the laws/rules for online companies… they didn’t weaken them! So as much as your 11 year old seems mature enough to handle an Instagram account or she only exchanges Snapchats with her older sister… it’s still against the rules.
Here’s what has changed: (again, these rules are only for users under 13 years old)
- Parental consent required to ask for geolocation data. Basically, every social media app asks for geolocation data. (Think tagging an image at a restaurant, etc) Prior rules didn’t require parental consent for this, but now it is.
- Parental consent is required for photos or videos containing a child’s image or audio files with a child’s voice from a child if that child is under 13. Yup, that means that if your child is uploading anything to the internet the app is required to ask for parental permission. Again, this is why apps age gate and why I think we need a better verification system.
- A screen or user name is now considered personal information. In the past, this was only considered personal information if that user name included an email address. But now app manufacturers need parental consent to store even the user name. This means that if they know your child has created a screen name to use on say, Instagram, and they don’t have specific parental consent… they are required to delete that user name when it’s reported to them.
- Persistent identifiers, things like cookies and your device ID, are now considered personal information. Basically, for any child under 13 an online service or app cannot collect ANY information without a parents consent. (That doesn’t mean mom and dad say it’s OK, it has to be an actual consent system… which most social media apps don’t have.)
What’s the story here, Adam?
The story is that COPPA is still in play. The minimum age for most social media apps, gaming sites, things like that…. it’s still 13 years old.
This isn’t about competence. It’s not about parental opinion or ignorance. COPPA is a law that helps keep young children safe from specifically being marketed to or even their personal information being leaked online in a data breach.
Parents! Please parent your kids by asking them to wait until they are thirteen. It’s for their best interest. Feel free to ask any questions in the comment section below.