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Most social networks ask a minimum age to open an account, but does this apply in reality?
Social media are relatively new platforms that parents of other generations may not have had to deal with. Social media were cooked in an era in which those who are now parents went through adolescence, so the profiles of MySpace and instant messaging of MSN were a matter of school students. Now, social networks are part of the life of almost everyone, regardless of their age. They are used not only to make social life but also to establish working relationships or to find lost friendships and reestablish links. For the youngest, it can even become the only way to relate to others. From what age, then, should children have their account? What precautions should they have? What risks are running?
Leer en español: ¿Es bueno que los niños abran redes sociales a tan corta edad?
This is a photo taken of the Instagram account of a 5-month-old baby. This is Xyla Rose Alvarado, daughter of the musicians who make up the duet Us The Duo. This account has existed for almost a year, that is, since before the birth of its protagonist. It is an account that their parents handle. Most websites and social media require a minimum age of 13 years to create their account independent of that of the parents. Among these are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Skype. Although YouTube does not have a minimum age requirement to watch videos, it does have (13) to create an account, that is, to become a user and interact: leave comments, create a channel, like, etc.
According to Jacqueline Howard for CNN, and contrary to what many parents and mothers think, this veto for children under 13 is not due to genuine concern of the owners of social networks to protect the privacy of babies and children of the world. The minimum age of 13 years is due to the COPPA of the United States (Children's Online Privacy Protection Act), which does not allow social networks or websites to share or sell information for children under 13 years of age. Hence, children under the age of 13 can not have an Instagram account of their own but their face can appear on their parents' profiles, or they can even make an account in their name. The privacy of children is not the priority of social networks but the sale of information.
Hence, also, according to CNN, the average age at which children open their profile on social networks is 12.6 years, just a few months before allowed by most websites. Besides, according to the Common Sense Media Report, which was based on surveys of 1,786 parents and mothers in the United States, by 2016 56% of children had their account in different social media. In this way, even when the websites have a veto for children under 13, this is not fully met.
For Vivian Friedman, a child psychologist at the University of Alabama for a study by the NGO Stand For Children, children aged 6 to 12 develop the ability to have concrete thoughts, while adolescents 13 to 18 can already have abstract thoughts. In this sense, it is not until adolescence that the ability to make abstract analyzes about the truth of what is seen on the screen is developed and that relative control over what is read and consumed is achieved. Thus, only after 13 years children can analyze what they see on the screen and make decisions about it.
Caroline Knorr, expert in paternity and maternity and collaborator of the Common Sense Media organization, gives some recommendations to guide her children when creating their own social media account:
- Familiarize yourself and use the privacy tools of social networks.
- Talk to your children about what you should post and what you should not. They should think twice before each publication.
- Be a friend and follower of your children in social networks.
- Keep private what is private (personal data, home address, etc.)
- Teach your children to be respectful even behind the screen.
LatinAmerican Post | Juliana Rodríguez Pabón
Translated from "¿Es bueno que los niños abran redes sociales a tan corta edad?"