June 15th, 2011
Legislation Introduced to Protect Children on Social Networking Sites
A new U.S. legislation bill has been filed that would make it very difficult for anyone to go online and track young American children. The new bill would also prevent marketers from gathering information concerning teenagers’ personal information and location.
Representatives Ed Markey and Joe Barton authored the bill, which is being supported by the child advocacy group Common Sense Media, because information technology firms are not making the correct estimation of effort to protect children from cyber bullies, scammers and marketers.
If the bill passes into law, Facebook and other social networking sites will be hit hard. Social networking attracts millions of elementary school-age children. Facebook has about 5 million users in the U.S. who are less than 10 years old, and another 2.5 million members who are 11 to 12 years old.
Facebook and other popular platforms with young people, such as Google, Foursquare and Formspring have followed the policy of placing a minimum age requirement of 13 to join up. The companies say they can’t do much if the child lies about his age. In some cases, parents allow their kids to be a member.
Over on the west coast in California is another bill that offers parents the right to demand social networking sites remove personal information of a child like their email account and address. Interestingly, Google, Facebook and Twitter oppose the California bill because it censors freedom of expression.
Instead of regulating social media, I suggest these large and popular social networking companies work together on an educational campaign. Educating parents and public, who use the Internet, on the policy of age limits and the reason behind them would curtail some of the problems with underage children on these platforms.