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Is Your Child Old Enough to be on Social Media

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Gideon Ayogu

The current generation of kids are amazingly precocious. Their wide-eyed curiosity and seemingly insatiable desire to constantly learn new things means that, your child is probably active on social media at an early age.

According to the Research and Development Unit of Yudala, an online and offline e-commerce outfit, while there are actually age requirements for social media use, most parents are oblivious of this and do not know if their children are indeed old enough to be on social media.

During last year’s observance of Safer Internet Day (a global event encouraging “safe and responsible" use of the internet), a study revealed that more than three-quarters of children aged 10 to 12 had admitted to having social media accounts, despite being below the stipulated age limit. Another research –  The Social Age Study – discovered that approximately 59% of children have already used a social network by the time they are 10.

Facebook has the most users under the age of 13— 52 per cent of 8 to 16-year-olds admitting they ignored Facebook’s age restriction.

As seen from the foregoing, a worrying dimension is the fact that, most kids on social media may have resorted to lying about their real ages when opening the accounts in order to by-pass the age limit.

As a result, these young ones inadvertently get exposed to harmful effects such as cyber bullying, grooming, offensive language and pornography, among others.

If you are one of the blissfully ignorant parents whose under-age child is probably active on various social media platforms, then you need to know which of these are off limits.

According to Yudala, here are the age requirements for a few of the most popular social media platforms:

Twitter/Instagram
 Around the period it came on stream, the minimum age requirement for anyone signing up for a new account on Twitter was 13.
This was included in the network’s terms of service. Fast forward to 2009, this was removed and relocated to Twitter’s privacy policy, a portion of which states: “Our Services are not directed to persons under 13.
If you become aware that your child has provided us with personal information without your consent, please contact us at privacy@twitter.com.
We do not knowingly collect personal information from children under 13. If we become aware that a child under 13 has provided us with personal information, we take steps to remove such information and terminate the child’s account.”
Same age limit of 13 applies to Instagram whose policy states that: “Instagram requires everyone to be at least 13 years old before they can create an account (in some jurisdictions, this age limit may be higher).”
If your child is below the age of 13, he or she has no business operating a Twitter or Instagram account. Your involvement may actually be necessary in checking your child’s activity on both platforms because, despite the ban on under-13s, Twitter and Instagram never actually ask the user to confirm their birth date.

Facebook/Snapchat
 Facebook also has the age limit pegged at 13 and above for potential users looking to create an account.
The service also boldly dictates how to report an account belonging to someone under 13. However, Facebook adds an extra layer of control by bringing up refusal messages if a user types in an under-age date.
For Snapchat, the minimum age is 13 as well. This is in compliance with the U.S. Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
Snapchat works in the same way as Facebook by asking for a date of birth upon sign up, and if the birth date indicates that the user is under 13, they’re not allowed to create an account.

YouTube
YouTube requires account holders to be 18, but a 13-year-old can sign up with a parent’s permission. Furthermore, when a YouTube video has been age-restricted, a warning screen is displayed and only users who are 18 or older can watch it.
Age-restricted videos are not visible to users who are logged out, are under 18 years of age, or have Restricted Mode enabled.

WhatsApp
Unarguably one of the most widely used social media platforms, the minimum age of use for WhatsApp was previously 16 but it has now been changed to 13.
The Facebook-owned service, nevertheless admits that, like many age restrictions on social media apps, some children may ignore the age requirement and sign up for WhatsApp when they’re younger.
However, the responsibility for this is passed to the parent as WhatsApp’s policy states that it is up to the parent to decide if they are comfortable with this or not.

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