Not so Age Appropriate Apps and Parental Responsibility
Did you know that the minimum age to open an account on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Kik, and Snapchat is 13? For Vine, Tinder and Yik Yak it’s 17. YouTube requires account holders to be 18, but a 13-year-old can sign up with a parent’s permission. Despite these clearly stated and published age restrictions, large and growing numbers of children 12 and under are using social media networks, often with their parent’s knowledge and consent.
There are a good reason for these age restrictions, yet we as parents ignore them, often with very serious consequences.
Our children’s personal information is at risk
Children are not mature and cognitively ready to be exposed to social media sites, let alone fully understand what impact their actions can have online or offline. Their prefrontal cortex is not developed enough to self regulate or have the ethical moral thinking developed.
I see many cases of children who have been victims cyberbullying and has had huge impact on their lives. Cyberbullying is prevalent on these social media platforms and it has a lasting negative impact on our children’s emotional well being.
These social sites can be a playground for predators and knowingly parents put their children at risk. We wouldn’t allow our children in the playground knowing there were much older children there why is it ok to allow them to be exposed to these social platforms meant for young adults online?
Finally we allow our children to lie and we accept lying is ok. They have to lie about their date of birth to join these social media sites. Isn’t lying wrong whether it is offline or online? A question that we must ask ourselves as parents is what are we teaching our children and how are we playing a part and encouraging the society to accept this?
Our Services are not directed to persons under 13. If you become aware that your child has provided us with personal information without your consent, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We do not knowingly collect personal information from children under 13. If we become aware that a child under 13 has provided us with personal information, we take steps to remove such information and terminate the child’s account.
Twitter doesn’t ask your age when you sign up, but Facebook does, and on Facebook the minimum age requirement is a hard and fast 13. It’s the same number on Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Reddit, Snapchat and Secret, too.
Tumblr puts it best
No individual under the age of thirteen (13) may use the Services, provide any personal information to Tumblr, or otherwise submit personal information through the Services (including, for example, a name, address, telephone number, or email address). You may only use the Services if you can form a binding contract with Tumblr and are not legally prohibited from using the Services.
You have to be at least 13 years old to use Tumblr. We’re serious: it’s a hard rule, based on U.S. federal and state legislation. “But I’m, like, 12.9 years old!” you plead. Nope, sorry. If you’re younger than 13, don’t use Tumblr. Ask your parents for a Playstation 4, or try books.
So what can the parents do?
Age restrictions are guidelines and are there for a reason so pay attention. Check sites like Common Sense Media, blogs that review apps before allowing the children to download them. Talk to your children about what is appropriate and safe with respect to digital activity.
There are over 800+ social media apps, parents can’t keep up with all of them. It is our responsibility as a responsible parent explore and research any new app a child or tween may want so you can get an idea of what that app does, just like you would ask about a new friend that they maybe going on a play date with.
Educating ourselves on the age restrictions of social media is part of being a responsible parent who is bringing up digitally responsible citizens.
About the Author
Dr Quratulain Zaidi, BSc. Hons, MSc, MSc, PhD., is a mother and a British-qualified and registered Clinical Psychologist who has lived and worked in Hong Kong and Singapore for 14 years. She specialises in assisting families in areas including parenting, teen issues, cyber-safety, marriage guidance, postnatal depression, stress and anxiety disorders, depression, bullying, eating challenges, and self-harm. She is an expert in educational assessments and learning challenges in children and teens, including ADHD, ADD, Dyslexia and ASD. Her office is in Central.
Learn more at www.mindnlife.com
This post has also appeared on the Canadian International School (HK) parental newsletter.