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COPPA’s Amended Rules and Your Kids

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.)

Read the amended rules here

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.

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in the San Diego neighborhood of Rolando with their three children.

3 replies on “COPPA’s Amended Rules and Your Kids”

Thanks for this update and reminder, Adam!
Can I amend your answer in a way that I think you’d agree with:
Question: “When is the right age for my child to get (insert social media name here)?”
Answer: “13…or anytime after that point that you feel comfortable with.”

I tweak that response because I think it’s important for parents to remember that not every teenager is ready for something just because the “minimum age” requirement has been met. It’s okay to not let your teenager drive at 16 if you think she’s irresponsible. Sometimes parents hold the age thing out like a carrot on a stick and it backfires. For instance, promising your child they can start dating when they turn 15, only to feel really uncomfortable with said child’s readiness for dating but feeling like they need to honor the “carrot” they’ve been dangling since he/she was 12.

{Sorry in advance for the long comment here!] :\

Amen to what KJ added! S/he voiced my thoughts / concerns, exactly.

I’m the Mom of 4 (ages 6-12) who’s trying hard to set the guardrails in the right spot – and it can be a different place for each child. Some kids can handle having that boundary closer to the cliff, and we (parents) can rest assured that those children are able to handle the responsibility of ‘driving’ and still enjoy the scenic view of freedom (access to the whole worldwide web) – because those children will still stay focused on the road (rules of internet use), and won’t push that boundary. Others need that boundary closer, or right NEXT TO to the roadside to keep them focused on the task at hand, because they are, by nature, boundary-pushers, and will be distracted by that scenic view / freedom (unhindered access to the worldwide web). I am realizing that we absolutely NEED God’s help to know where that boundary – the guardrail – belongs for each of our children. They are individual, unique spirits, and God knows them better than we do. We just have to seek to know His will for each of His children we’ve been entrusted with. It’s a huge responsibility, and an honor; but we want to do it right.

A related side note to parents:
Our 6th grader has been coming home asking questions about “The Darknet”. Educate yourselves, parents!
Here’s a good start:
http://www.pcworld.com/article/2046227/meet-darknet-the-hidden-anonymous-underbelly-of-the-searchable-web.html

Children, teens and young adults are naturally curious. That’s a blessing, a gift, and a Godly attribute – a part of our divine nature. Because of that, we should welcome their questions about ANYTHING. WE – THEIR PARENTS – should be MORE familiar with /informed about what “the kids at school” are talking about, so that our kids will come to US with their questions, and see us as out of touch. In fact, bring it up BEFORE they ask! My husband and I are determined to introduce and educate our kids on the facts of such topics as puberty, sex, drugs, crime (like human trafficking and child slavery), and the darker side of the internet (porn, etc.) – and really try not allow other kids at school (whom we don’t even know) to be the ones who introduce our kids to these ‘mysteries’ that can lead them down a truly dark path. (I know, such bright, happy-go-lucky topics! haha. But our family uses the web for positive and uplifting stuff almost daily. So, no, they’re not overwhelmed with a fear or phobia of screens!) ; )

We cannot be “ostrich parents” on these topics, guys. We have to be proactively educating OURSELVES, first, if we want to have informed kids who understand the dangers out there. We want kids who are well-prepared when these things literally pop up in front of them on their screens. (And FYI, folks, this has already happened to your child who uses a screen when you aren’t around – I guarantee it as much as I guarantee you have found something sinister or offensive in your email’s junkbox.)

Most American kids are seeing things AT SCHOOL **WEEKLY** THAT ARE INAPPROPRIATE, GUYS. Yes, weekly – whether (in our case) on their own ChromeBook handed to them during the school day; or forwarded from “friends” whom they don’t really hang out with, but who have their school email address (they all do, for “collaboration on projects”… ok whatever, Common Core.); or on other kids’ iPads while waiting for you to pick them up (as most of us “protective parents” prefer to do, rather than sending them on the unsupervised school bus where kids of all ages, 6th-12th grades, are thrown together to “educate” each other incorrectly on ALL KINDS of topics, from music they “MUST” listen to, to “Hey! Check out this hot chick on my phone!” Yes, it’s pretty bad on the buses these days. It always has been, based on my own experience. But now, with devices in their pockets, there is so much more to talk about, share, and show off.)

It’s important to ask kids and teens these questions, often:
“What have you seen recently that you wish you hadn’t, or that made you uncomfortable?” Where were you, and how did you handle it?”
If they told a teacher (as our 12-yr old son does), we always express how proud we are of him. This helps reassure our kids that they won’t be punished for seeing something inadvertently – and, we think, builds their strength to turn it off when no one is around.

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