As the parent of one tween (10.5 who will be 11 in two months) and an 8.5 who wants to do what her big sister does-social networks like Facebook, Twitter, You Tube etc are sources of big concern for me-and I know a lot about them. Which seems to put me well ahead of my peers who are parents confronting these issues.
To fully understand the issue I (and other parents of tweens today) face-you need to understand the landscape. Chances are if you are reading this blog, you do-but for the sake of clarity:
At school, softball, camp-pretty much any place more than three kids gather, eventually the conversation turns to Facebook, texting, You Tube and any one of a myriad of social games. Now, like many parents I am guilty of enabling this conversation by outfitting my kids with the iPod Touch-which opens up the magic of the app store to them. I am aware of at least three apps that my girls and their friends use regularly that are not compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). And these are the ones I worry most about.
Through the age of 13 (which is why its the magic number for Facebook, You Tube, Twitter etc) COPA provides some rigorous rules about how kids under 13 are treated on websites. Speaking as someone who has had to consider COPPA compliance-it’s not treated lightly in large companies. I can see in some start-up environments though there being more of a “let’s wait to see if someone complains” attitude.
Basically, COPPA provides strong content guidelines and enforcement as well as protections against the collection of PID (personal identification). Enforcement of COPPA falls on the Federal Trade Commission.
So back to my parenting conundrum. Both of my kids (more so 10.5) have friends who are on Facebook, regularly post videos to You Tube and are on social gaming sites like Second Life etc. My kids, not so much. They have email, I let them on Opionaided (it is COPPA compliant) and they can play social games targeted at tweens that are COPPA compliant.
But the battle continues. Then comes the part that confuses me, although I know it should not. Since becoming a single parent, I am more apt (perhaps more open) to talking with other parents at school events, temple, parties etc-and they seem unaware of the kind of information their children are sharing on social networks.
They are shocked at what I know about their kids and their family trips-just through a casual glance at Facebook.
Now this is a lesson I am trying to teach my kids as well-as I will not count on the FTC or COPPA compliance to keep my kids net safe. That said, its not easy to say, “no” to the relentless stream of asks to join Facebook, You Tube and other sites.
When the girls want to try a new site out, I tell them I have to look at it first–and the first thing I look for is COPPA compliance-sites that are COPPA compliant brag about it, so its not hard to find.
The other items I look for:
- Is there a secure log in procedure on the sign up page? (look for the HTTPS or the lock)
- Look through the TOS on the site and check on their policy for PID-do they trade it or sell it to third parties?
- Once registered, make sure the sign in page is also a secure log in.
- I keep the girls’ computer in the middle of the family room. That is their online portal, where I can dip in as needed.
The other thing I do (and perhaps its a bit over the top) is I have my iPhone set to get the girls’ email so I know what they are signing up for, and can shut them down pretty quickly.