15 years ago it was hard to imagine that personal devices will be so widespread. Nowadays, you can see a smartphone even in the hand of the homeless. There is no need to say that the average age when the children get a phone decreased from 16-18 to 12-13. But any usage of smartphones is always related to social networking of some sort. It is quite strange, but there are a lot of people who don’t understand the possible danger social networks can carry for their children. In this article, we will discuss the age restrictions for different social network, their necessity and some interesting statistics about age restrictions in different applications.
Children and networks
According to the study1 I found on the Web, 89% of teenagers in age from 13 to 17 have at least one social network account, and in 71% of cases teenagers of the same age range have more than one account. Such statistics are the result of making the smartphone popular, affordable and essential for modern society. Social networks also brought a significant influence on this subject – they developed enormously last years, gaining a great amount of users. Even if there is no practical reason for a child to use social networks, it sees how adults make use of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram, and want to do so, too.
And this situation is rather good than bad: while exploring the content, children find the things that are really interesting for them. Obtaining the interesting and important information is a really useful thing for the self education purposes, regardless of the age of the person who gets such content. But there is also another side of the coin: there is a lot of content in the Internet which can be harmful or sensitive for young users. Because of freedom of speech, everyone can find doubtful content in the social networks. And while adults are able to “filtrate” such information, basing on the knowledge they get through a life, children are not able to make the analysis, and can easily use this information as a fact or as a guide to actions.
Why do you call it dangerous?
Misinformation cannot harm the child physically. Any kind of false facts can be easily refuted by parents, or with the information from a more authoritative source. But there is also one more possible thing that can be harmful. We are talking about online friends – ones who have never contacted the child in real life, but have persistent contact with it on Instagram, for example.
When it comes to the first meet, both child and friend knows quite a lot about each other, hence, they are likely to trust each other. Yes, in the majority of cases online friends are the same teenagers as your child, but there is still a chance that there is somebody malevolent hiding under the guise of “teenager”. And having a walk with a friend usually supposes the absence of parents in the range of mile. It is likely impossible to control who really stands under the nickname of “Janet”, if you can’t see and analyze the facts that this person told about herself during the conversation. But we will talk about the ways of control later.
Age restrictions in different networks: interesting statistics
Here are the list of minimal age requirements for popular social networks:
- Facebook: 13+ Years.
- WhatsApp: 16+ Years; But, you will be able to sign up at the age of 13 with parental permission.
- Google+ : 13+ years.
- ASK.fm: 13+ years.
- Flickr: 13+ years.
- Instagram: 13+ years.
- LinkedIn: 14+ years.
- Kik: 13+ years.
- Pinterest: 13+ years.
- Skype: 18+ years; with parental permission up to 17years.
- Twitter: 13+ years.
- Youtube: 17+ years; 13-year-old can sign up with a parent’s permission.
- Vine: 13+ years.
- Vimeo: 13+ years.
- Snapchat: 13+ years.
- Spot a friend: 13-19 years only.
As you can see, the majority of networks state that the lower age limit for their platform usage is 13 years. Why exactly 13? At the age of 13 children already have their psychological basis formed. Their personality is still developing, however, social networks are a perfect place to explore the information field to find the theme they like, and create their own personality in such a way. Children of lower age can get their psyche harmed by the sensitive content, which is widespread in the modern internet – news about violence, crimes, deaths of celebrities, etc. Of course, this number is set based on the pure statistics – a child can still be sensitive to the content of some sort even at 15, as well as have “stable” psyche at the age of 12. But according to the Gaussian curve, the majority of children get psychically stable exactly at the age of 13.
Main problem of age restrictions
The common idea of age restrictions for users is quite good: the exact age is clearly specified on the website, so the parents are able to figure out if their child is old enough to use this service. At the same time, social networks cut away the problem with massive legal actions from parents, whose child (that was under the allowed age!) saw something that harmed it psychologically on Facebook, Twitter or so. Plaintiffs get nothing but bills for judgement process costs, because one of the key rules of social network usage is broken.
But such situations are still actual. Parents often pay no attention to the smartphone activity of their children, so they are free to register in the networks they want. There is no way to check if the inputted date of birth is true, without the massive remaking of the internet usage rules. I meant the registration in social networks only with making use of passports. Such a novation terminates the key principle of the Internet at all – anonymity, so this idea is completely surrealistic.
Can in be solved?
The only way to prevent the usage of social networks is to implement personal control. It is easy to figure out if your child may be harmed with the specific content, and in such a case you need to prevent all attempts to register the account in mentioned social networks. However, besides autoritary methods, you may also explain to your son or daughter why it is better to stay away from Twitter, Instagram or other networks.
When your child is going for a walk with an online friend, try to figure out several details about this boy/girl. If there is something strange, try to explain it to your child and ask to call you in case something goes wrong. One more step which can help you to solve a lot of different problems is a location tracking for the child’s device. It will be much easier to control your child without the direct contact.
- About use of social networks on Our World In Data