Have you noticed some websites require children be 13 years of age or older to create an account on their site? The reason there is an age requirement has to do with a federal law. This Federal law is the Child Online Privacy Protection Act or COPPA. The Child Online Privacy Protection Act is designed to help parents control what information is collected and used from their children’s online activities.
The bottom line is when a child signs up to participate in a website online whether to play a game or enter a contest, the website cannot collect any more personal information than is needed to participate in the online activity. In addition, the website must provide a way to keep the child’s personal information safe. If the website wishes to disclose or use the personal information from a child the website must first receive parental consent before disclosing any personally identifiable information.
This law is designed to help decrease the chance of being victimized online. Online exploitation is unwanted sexual content or sexual innuendos typed in chat rooms or by sending and or receiving photos of a sexual nature. The NCMEC believes that online exploitation is a growing problem that most children and teens will encounter in his or her lifetime. Yet, it is not necessarily the information gathered by websites that parents must fear. Children and teens feel a sense of anonymity and often do not understand how even a little bit of personal information revealed online can lead to being found in person.
With advancements in electronic media children are going online at an earlier and earlier age. This increases the chance that a child will be exposed to inappropriate words or pictures at some point in his or her life. After all, child predators no longer need to leave the comfort of their home or easy chair to hunt for their next victim. The child predator of today only needs to sign on to his or her home computer and visit sites frequented by children and teens, like Gaia online, Facebook, Neo Pets, and many more.
Teach children what information to provide and not to reveal online. Check their online profiles often and have them remove information that is not appropriate. Also consider their friends profiles which are often linked to each other. Your child’s BFF (Best Friend Forever) may have information listed on his or her profile that by default may jeopardize the safety of your child. Many teens list their schools or home towns in addition to posting a picture of themselves, all which can be used to find the child first online and then in person.
Parental education and school education must begin early in teaching children how to keep themselves safe online. Make it clear as to what information is acceptable on profiles and what information is dangerous. Check your child and your child’s friend’s profiles to ensure personal information remains personal. Teach children how to be safe on and off line. Tell them what to do when they receive an inappropriate email or private message and to tell an adult immediately. Parents report inappropriate emails and instant messages to the police. This way the predators using the internet to find their next victim can be stopped and prosecuted.