Social Media – Some Kids Start Too Young

A recent report from the journal Pediatrics discusses benefits and risks of youngsters using social media. This blog report will discuss the issue of the very young singing onto social media sites.

Many parents know that 13 years is the minimum age for most social media sites but they don’t understand why. There are 2 major reasons.

  • First, 13 is the age set by Congress in the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which prohibits Web sites from collecting information on children younger than 13 years without parental permission. 
  • Second, the official terms of service for many popular sites now mirror the COPPA regulations and state that 13 years is the minimum age to sign up and have a profile. This is the minimum age to sign on to sites such as Facebook and My-Space. There are many sites for preadolescents and younger children that do not have such an age restriction, such as Disney sites, Club Penguin, and others.

It is important that parents evaluate the sites on which their child wishes to participate to be sure that the site is appropriate for that child’s age. For sites without age stipulations, however, there is room for negotiation, and parents should evaluate the situation via active conversation with their tweens and teens.

In general, if a website specifies a minimum age for use in its terms of service, the American Academy of Pediatrics encourages that age to be respected.

Falsifying age has become common practice by some preadolescents and even some parents. Parents must be thoughtful about this practice to be sure that they are not sending mixed messages about lying and that online safety is always the main message being emphasized.