Why is 13 the age of internet consent?

So, you have children! Great job by the way. This, even without the Information Age is both your greatest accomplishment, and your toughest challenge! Just like you, I’ve permitted an amount of technology use since they were very young. Now in middle school it seems as the technology geek, I’m between two communities of parents. Those that want their kids to wait, even longer. A noble and honorable decision. And the others who have allowed their children on SnapChat, Facebook, TikTok, YouTube, etc… all while falsifying their child’s age to do so. Oh you didn’t know you can’t creat an account unless your 13 or older? I’m guessing somehow that step got glossed over.

I genuinely want to allow some apps, like Spotify, Pandora, YouTube, Pinterest, Picasa, etc… but with the ideology of the environment like iCloud where their accounts a child accounts under my own account. Ideally with a construct that allows me to monitor and control activity. Guess what. We’re not a large enough consumer community for this to be a thing yet. That’s right. Google (the mother ship of YouTube) limits their best service Family Link to Android devices. Spotify still requires the family member to be 13 in their Family plan service.

For me it begged the question, why 13. As involved in IT as I am, I did not know why 13 was the proverbial cliff. Turns out, it’s the law…. sort of. WikiPedia has a good summary of COPPA. Check it out.

Hers the fun part: [content providers] “….. disallow children under 13 from using their services altogether due to the cost and work involved in complying with the law.”

The law, in short: “details … a website operator must …. protect children’s privacy and safety online … of those under 13.”

Now, this shouldn’t be a surprise, you know your being watched, facial recognized, tracked, and marketed to when your online. But this really cements the fact that the internet by and large doesn’t want “the cost and work involved in“ providing anyone with any privacy online. Remember that.

So, should you falsify your child’s age to get apps to work. Should you let them use your accounts? I suggest like other coveted experiences that are best saved for the appropriate age, the publicity of ones self on the internet is also best saved for a more appropriate age. Need help with that answer, try here.

However, technology community!! We’re parents, relatives, and genuinely decent humans that want our industry to be something positive for humanity. I therefore challenge every one of us to consider there is a user space between the current “Kids” apps age market (ie. YouTube Kids, Messenger Kids, etc…) and age 18 that is deserving of the “cost and work involved” to both provide access, and parental controls to it all. We cannot as completely teach our children discretion, time management, discernment, nor self-confidence in their digital world without parental tools. Knowing they will both be our future workforce, and civil leaders, we must assume the responsibility to reach the needs of parents with these services!