Online safety and age restrictions

JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin
JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin
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I have said before that the major online services have age restrictions in place. Usually that means you have to be 13 or older. In fact, I haven’t found any that have a different age restriction.

This is of course for multiple reasons. Younger children are vulnerable to abuse, may inadvertently give away private information or may accidentally use Mummy and Daddy’s credit cards. All things that we as parents worry about.

Social media gets a lot of attention, with warnings about children being victimised by their peers, malcontents masquerading as other children and scary things like that. The easy thing to do is to respect those age restrictions and tell your child no. Well, I say easy, but you try telling your kid that and then see if you think it is easy.

It is clearly not.

Straight forward plain as the nose on your face social networks are easy to spot. Especially the larger ones like Facebook, Twitter and Google+. The problem is, there are a lot of websites and apps out there that have social features, but that aren’t social networks as such. Plus there is the ever growing list of new social networks and apps to content with.

For example, my daughter asked me if she could use a new app called musical.ly Using the app, you sing along to well known songs and dance your socks off in front of the camera. You can share your newly created music videos with your friends and… that’s when I started getting suspicious.

You see while the unique selling point may be that you can make music videos, it turns out it is a social network just like any other. You can post publicly or privately and people can comment. If you search their website, you can also find references to accounts being deleted if they find out the owner is under 13…

A lot of online games allow players to chat with each other. So again the social aspect comes into play and parents should therefore apply caution. There are some that are designed for younger children. Roblox for instance is a gaming platform, so kids have lots of games to choose from. Each one allows them to chat with others in game and to add a list of friends, so they can play with the same people again if they like. What Roblox does though, is allow children to sign up for an account using their parent’s email address. So controls are built in right from the start. Not all gaming apps are like this though.

What it all boils down to is this, there are so many apps and websites out there that realistically you cannot rely on the advice of any one person as to which is safe and which is not. No one can know the pros and cons of every gaming site, or mobile app out there. There will always be something new. The next big craze. If your child asks you to install something, research it yourself. It only takes a few minutes to visit a website, do a bit of reading and make sure your children are safe. Also regarding those age restrictions, I have found children are much more willing to accept things if you can show them the proof.

Alan Stainer
https://www.alansitsolutions.com/