The 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), in a bid to protect the privacy and safety of younger netizens, requires that minors aged 13 or younger gain explicit parental consent to access commercial websites. Many sites such as Facebook and YouTube, however, have chosen to avoid any potential conflicts with the law by banning such younger visitors altogether, though this restriction is easily circumvented during the registration process. To what extent is COPPA circumvented on Facebook, and by whom — parents or children?
A 2011 study by danah boyd, Eszther Hargittai, Jason Schultz and John Palfrey in the online journal First Monday, “Why Parents Help Their Children Lie to Facebook About Age: Unintended Consequences of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act” (PDF), examines the online practices of 1,007 U.S. households with children. In a July 2011 survey, qualifying parents were surveyed about the Facebook habits of their children ages of 10 to 14, including age of initial registration, parental knowledge and/or enabling of Facebook participation, and how well parents understood the age-restriction policies of both COPPA and Facebook.
Key study findings include:
The researchers conclude, “The online industry’s response to COPPA’s under-13 rule and verifiable parental consent model is largely proving incompatible, and at times, antithetical to many parents’ ideas of how to help their children navigate the online world.”
Tags: privacy, children, consumer affairs, parenting, privacy