By July, Facebook, Google, Tumblr and others will likely be forced to remove photos, audio recordings or other personal identifiers of children — or else face stiff fines, thanks to updates to a 15-year-old law.
The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) was enacted in 1998. In 2011, the FTC beefed up the measure, preventing sites from collecting personal information from kids such as name, location and date of birth without a parent's consent.
This July, new amendments for kids under 13 will go into effect, approved by the FTC in December. The rules are targeted at sites that market specifically to kids. However, even a site like Facebook could be fined for allowing minors to post self-portraits, audio recordings of their voice, and images with geo-location data.
There are also new restrictions on tracking data, with cookies or a unique identifier that follow registrants from one site to another.
Digital parenting is one of the hardest parts about being a modern day parent; the possible dangers that come with digital interaction, especially when unmonitored, are well known thanks to news articles and TV specials.
To help parents raise their children, companies have produced plenty of products meant to keep children safe, from filters to site blockers to parental intelligence systems. Parents often develop their own systems to keep children safe online; they may put a limit of the amount of time a child spends online or prohibit the use of a computer in a child’s bedroom.
I believe that it is important for digital parents to avoid creating restriction upon restriction. According to Connectsafely.org, based on surveys of 25,142 families of 9-to-16-year-olds in 25 countries, researchers came to the conclusion that parents' active engagement with their kids' Internet activities works better than restricting them.
"For parents, talking to their child about the internet, encouraging them to explore alone but being nearby in case they are needed and talking to them about what they do online are all ways in which they can reduce online risks without reducing their child's opportunities," said EU Kids Online research director Sonia Livingstone in a press release.
This is not to say the resources available online should be ignored. However, perhaps before jumping to block every single site on the Internet, a quick conversation is all that is really needed. Calmly explain to your children that there are dangerous people online, and that nothing online is truly private. Motivate your children to think: Is this something I want people outside of my house to see? In short, teach them to use the Internet safely and responsibly.
Remember: giving children guidelines is more effective than enforcing restrictions; as tempting as it is to create rule upon rule for your children, encouraging open dialogue between you and your children will lead to a more trusting relationship for both parties, and as a result will let parents talk to and monitor their children with less resistance.
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