Over the past few years there’s been a rise in the number of kids who lie about their age to get an account on a social media site whose Terms of Service require users to be a certain age (usually 13). In 2011, Consumer Reports said there were 7.5 million Facebook users under 13. One can’t assume the majority of these underage accounts have been set up by kids as a report released in 2011 by Microsoft said that 7 in 10 parents of underage Facebook users helped their kids set up the accounts. What’s a bit scary about this is Consumer Reports states 5 million of these underage users are kids 10 & under who have accounts largely unsupervised by parents.
What’s the big deal? It’s just some long legal jargon by a company.
- Helping kids lie online sets a poor example of good digital behavior
It might not be illegal, but lying about your age does violate the Terms of Service agreement users must agree to when they sign up for many social media accounts. When parents help kids lie online, they’re setting a poor example about good digital behavior.
- It puts kids’ privacy at risk
Information that kids share on sites like Facebook is used to target them with advertising. The majority of young kids don’t recognize what these ads really are. It’s easy for them to click on something or give away private information to companies without fully understanding what they are doing. Kids also need protection from other hazards that might lurk on the Internet as well, such as links that infect their computer with malware and invitations from strangers.
What’s the solution?
- Talk to your kids
This is a great opportunity for you to talk to your kids about digital behavior. Explain the need to protect their privacy. Take an interest in what they enjoy online and ask questions about the social media sites those in their circle are using. Be willing to look into these and set an example of being digitally safe and smart by honoring the Terms of Service agreements for those you join. Help your child find things they can do safely online that are age appropriate. You’ll be helping to create a digitally responsible teen who has a solid foundation for social media.