It is always important to check the fine print when it comes to on-site communication programs.
Just last week a student felt she was correcting part of my presentation by informing me that the legal age to have an Instagram account was 12. She pushed her phone screen into my face and remarked, “See!” She showed me her opened Instagram account and beside the logo at the top of the page was “(12+)”. For a split second I questioned my own knowledge. It appeared to me, and to the student, that this figure related to the age requirement.
I then asked her to scroll down on her screen and click on the very small word “Terms”. Doing this, she opened up the terms and conditions (Ts & Cs) that applied to the program. After scrolling down that page, it was not long before we found the required age was in fact 13.
Her friends, who gathered around, all believed as this young girl did that the age requirement to have an Instagram account was 12. I must admit I felt instant relief when we saw it was 13. My credibility was on the line.
The girl then opened her Facebook app. Adjacent to the Facebook logo was “(4+)”. Obviously this number did not relate to age. Facebook would not dare make the age requirement 4. Again we went to the terms and conditions, where it clearly stated that the required age was 13 years or older.
The number and plus sign in brackets or in a light grey box beside the logo relates to notifications within the account, it certainly does not indicate the required age of the user.
As an example of typical Ts & Cs, Facebook lists the following in their ‘Terms of Service’ under Registration and Account Security: “You will not use Facebook if you are under 13.”
This condition of account creation is virtually uniform across social networking sites including Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. However, it must be stressed that it is important to check the conditions of each separate application as they may differ. Take Snapchat… it lists 18 as the age of consent to use certain functionality within the program.
Are the age requirements law? Yes. In general terms, legislation requires commercial web sites and online services to take reasonable steps to prevent the creation of accounts or collection and retention of personal data relating to children under 13 years of age.
DOES THE AGE LIMIT MAKE IT OK?
Irrespective of the age requirement or restriction a program or application has in place, it does not mean that when our children reach that age they automatically have a right to have or use that program. The sole discretion for this should always lie with the parent or carer. Age requirements associated with programs are based solely on corporate and/or legal considerations, not on the health and wellbeing of the user.
WE decide as families how technology is used by our children and this includes the programs they are allowed to use. We should consider the reason or need for them to use a program, any foreseeable issues the program may cause and the personality of our child. Some children are not set up to social network; in fact, even some adults are not set up to social network.
At what age should our children social network through programs like Facebook or Instagram? There is no set age. This depends on our child’s personality, our family dynamics and needs and what we want as parents and carers. It is important to remember, though, that no program is essential to our child’s development and should never be placed above the health and wellbeing or our children.