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Parents know their underage children are using Facebook and many help set up accounts

Written by Rich Fiscus (Google+) @ 02 Nov 2011 23:34 User comments (4)

Parents know their underage children are using Facebook and many help set up accounts The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is a US law intended to prevent the collection and use of personal information from children under the age of 13.
A new report from the University of Illinois At Chicago finds that the measures taken by services like Facebook to comply with the law have resulted in it being largely ineffective.

The report, based on a survey of US parents with children between the ages of 10 and 14, looks specifically at how parents view Facebook's minimum age requirement. Like many websites, Facebook requires users to be at least 13 years old to join in order to avoid any COPPA compliance issues.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that large numbers of children younger than 13 sign up for Facebook accounts. The report found their parents are almost always aware of the child's Facebook activity.

In fact, the majority actually helped their child create the account, almost always with the knowledge that it was against Facebook's terms of service. What almost none of them were aware of was the reason for Facebook's policy.

As the UIC researchers said:

When sites like Facebook respond to laws such as COPPA by restricting access for under?13 children ? and, thereby, prohibit children from creating accounts ? parents and children are forced to circumvent these prohibitions and forgo the privacy and safety benefits of COPPA if they wish to regain control over their online opportunities. These benefits include the option for parents to audit and delete their children?s data. While in some ways this may encourage greater collaboration between parents and children (after all, few things are more powerful combining agents than a common obstacle), this was not the intended consequence of COPPA.


10 years after COPPA went into effect, the Federal Trade Commission is engaged in a new rulemaking process in which they propose to improve the process by tightening the requirements for verification of parental permission and place additional restrictions on what information may be gathered.

Of course that will have absolutely no effect on any service, like Facebook, with a policy of restricting use to those 13 and older. In fact, if anything it would likely cause more websites to implement such a policy.

This report concludes that to be an ineffective measure, and recommends:

New solutions must be devised that help limit when, where, and how data are used, but the key to helping children and their parents enjoy the benefits of those solutions is to abandon age?based mechanisms that inadvertently result in limiting children?s options for online access.

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4 user comments

15.11.2011 10:29

Yes, you wouldn't think intelligent parents would do such a thing. I have not one, but 2 Sister-in-laws that have done just that. Both are professionals and one is extremely high powered. Because I am FB friends to all my nieces, I get to see what they post. I am now positive IQ and common sense are not linked at all. I also get to see what all their permissiveness bought them. I figure one of my nieces will get knocked up before she gets out of High School. At 15 she is in love with someone out of high school. I do not think he graduated. She will probably need to go to a special school for problem children and is at risk for running away from home.

226.2.2012 23:11

I think that, because the computer is in the house, the parents have a false sense of security. They fail to realize that just as they wouldn't allow anyone they're not familiar with to call their children on the phone and speak with them, it should be the same, or even more so, with a computer. There's definitely a disconnect. Parents need to become more computer literate before they allow their children access to a computer, themselves. And children need to be educated on the perils of the internet, and the possible consequences of sharing too much personal information.

328.2.2012 18:08

Well with my sister-in-laws that is not the case. They feel their should do what they want on the computer. They can't get hurt from the computer directly. They want to trust their kids and are very permissive. I think my nieces are educated about the internet. The problem with the young is they figure nothing bad will happen to them. At least that is how I thought till I was in my 30s.

42.3.2012 17:37

Originally posted by Mez:
Well with my sister-in-laws that is not the case. They feel their should do what they want on the computer. They can't get hurt from the computer directly. They want to trust their kids and are very permissive. I think my nieces are educated about the internet. The problem with the young is they figure nothing bad will happen to them. At least that is how I thought till I was in my 30s.
That is so true about young people. Even though they cannot be hurt directly through a computer, they can be hurt indirectly through the computer. Whether it be done via non-appropriate messages, or messages are meant to manipulate the person. That's something parents should always be on the alert for.

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