Is 13 too young?
What should parents think about when it comes to their children and their social media accounts? Why are we talking about 13? Twitter, InstagramMajor social media platforms, including Facebook and TikTok, require users to be at least 13 years old. It also includes people from Australia and New Zealand. This minimum age requirement stems from a 1998 US law that banned the collection of children’s personal data without parental consent.
For many parents, schools and cyber security experts, this minimum age has become a norm. Many believe that this comes with the implicit assurance that social media platforms are appropriate and safe for children once they have completed the age of 13. Conversely, they also believe that they are unsafe for children under the age of 13. Although this is not necessary.
What does the evidence say?
Social media platforms present some risks for youth. These include online bullying and harassment, exposure to misinformation and inappropriate content, privacy violations and overuse. Studies claim a connection between social media and poor mental health and decreased self-esteem. These findings are worrying and there is no doubt that social media can negatively affect the well-being of some young people. So why don’t we just increase the age? Murthy admits that keeping kids away from their devices and social media is difficult. However, he suggests that parents come together and say that as a group, we will not allow our children to use social media until they are 16 or 17 or 18 years old.
can’t keep the older kids away
However, any increase in age – whether formal or informal – will not necessarily keep children safe online. Children easily by misrepresenting their age (many already do this). Young people are good at finding creative and covert ways. Why can’t parents just say no? It is often suggested by cyber security experts that parents just say no. This message has been reinforced by well-known commentators such as British actress Kate Winslet, who recently told the BBC: “My kids don’t have social media.” While these approaches may work in the case of younger children, Older children are unlikely to follow along easily.
Sanctions become the cause of conflict
Widespread restrictions and prohibitions not only lead to family conflict, but children are more likely to use social media without parental consent or knowledge. This is a problem because parents often help children with online matters. If a child has a social media account without a parent’s permission, he or she may not ask a parent for help when in trouble online because of the fear that their device will be taken away.
Children also have the right to be online
Discussions about the risks are often overlooked because of the potential benefits of being online. Social media is incredibly important to many young people. It keeps them connected to friends and extended family, provides a platform for creativity and self-expression, and enables civic participation and activism.
(Catherine Page Geoffrey, Lecturer in Media and Communications, University of Sydney)