The 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) ensures the protection of minors under the age of 13. The Act requires that websites and platforms take permission from a child’s guardians prior to collecting personal data, and encourages them to perform age verification of their users. The information includes but is not limited to, the full name, address, contact number, etc. of the minor.
These platforms also are not allowed to collect location data or anything that can identify a minor such as website cookies, IP addresses, etc. But COPPA doesn’t come into effect if, for instance, a 10-year-old pretends to be 18. The federal law cannot do anything if the child has lied about their age. That is why social media platforms need to protect minors by enhancing the scrutiny of their age verification system.
Age Requirements on Social Media Platforms
The minimum age to register on the most used social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat is 13. For more mature social media platforms like Vine and Tinder, the minimum age threshold is 17. Entertainment platforms like YouTube require registering end-users to be 18, although, with parental permission, a 13-year-old can sign up too. In spite of these age restrictions, there is an increasing number of minors registering on social media platforms without their parent’s consent. Therefore, these platforms cannot rely on the honesty of children and need to properly undertake online age verification processes.
Age Does Age Matter, Anyway?
Maturity Comes with Age
Nowadays, almost every child is exposed to technology from an early age. This is not to say it is wrong as it is a major part of children’s learning and growth. So, it is understandable that they are quite tech-savvy for their age. But this does not mean that their brains are evolving and maturing at the same pace. To develop ethical thinking and differentiate between right and wrong, a child requires proper experience which only comes with age. So, verification of the age of these minors and only exposing them to age-appropriate content is important.
The Value of Truth
It is imperative for children that they understand the value of speaking the truth. Moreover, getting what you want by following the right way is also crucial to their growth. Surely, it seems harmless to open a Snapchat account by lying about your age, but the emphasis should be on the ‘lying’ part. The repercussions of exposing oneself to an age-restricted platform, come later. Thus, only allowing the end-users with a verified age is necessary to keep their ethical boundaries intact.
Current Practices of Age Verification
The Rudimentary “Over 18” Check
This technique of age verification is a convenient one to pull off social media websites. That is why we see it everywhere. But, the frequency of its usage does not necessarily mean that it can be relied upon. As its reliability lies on the end-user registering on the website, thus, oftentimes the information given is bogus.
Credit/Debit Card Verification
Some social media platforms that deal with online transactions require users to prove their identity through a valid credit card. In this process, they claim to undertake the age verification process of the user too. But, the problem with this is that minors use the credit cards of their parents and gain access to age-restricted content.
The Answer to Age Verification Questions
If the traditional methods of age verification are not working, then it opens up a debate on what social media platforms do next. Well, the good news is that there is already an answer to this question i.e., digital age verification solutions. Online age verification systems are highly capable and robust in verifying the ages of the user.
These services ensure the protection of children from the adult world and do not rely on their discretion to provide access. Here, state-of-the-art biometric verification tools are used to identify users along with their identity documents. By their application, parents can rest easy knowing their children are safe while the social media platforms can be sure of a reduction in ID theft.