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Children's Online Privacy

Children's Online Privacy - PeopleSmart

Children's Online Privacy

Given its potential for education, many parents are reluctant to restrict their child’s access to the Internet. Despite the benefits of Internet use, dangers include information sharing, abuse, and child predators. Though federal privacy laws focus on parental consent, monitoring Internet use and children’s online privacy is a continued and ongoing issue for website operators, educational institutions, parents, and advocates.

Why does child online privacy matter?

Adults understand the importance of keeping their passwords and other personal information private, knowing that providing social security or bank account numbers recklessly can endanger their identities. Children’s online privacy matters because all personal information is sensitive, and children often do not understand what information should be kept private and what sites would put their identities at risk. Children can easily become targets for online schemes or more personal dangers, including online sexual predators.

Is my child’s private information online?

Your child’s private information will only be made public if released by your consent or if your child provides the information. This is why it is very important to educate your child about online privacy and safety issues as soon as he or she has access to the Internet. Children should never reveal their full name, address, phone number, email, social security number, school name, or other personal information without your consent.

How do I protect my child’s privacy?

The best way to protect your child’s privacy is to educate them about the dangers of information-sharing and online predators. Children should always be wary of strangers they "meet" online or avoid these online encounters entirely. Offers that seem "too good to be true" probably are. Children should know not to provide any personal information without your consent and understand that certain websites are off-limits.

What are parental controls?

Parental controls allow you to limit any offensive or obscene content that your child could potentially access on the Internet. The controls allow parents to put filters on computers and parents that specify restricted content. Hardware controls are installed between devices and the Internet service provider in the router. There are also software-based options that allow you to track usage and key strokes.

Should I let my child use Facebook?

Though some parents permit their children to use Facebook at a certain age, there are many reasons to limit or restrict access. If you allow your child to use a Facebook account, you should know who their "Friends" are and make sure that you can monitor the information on their Facebook page. For younger children, some child safety advocates recommend that you know your child’s login information.

What information does Facebook collect about my child?

Facebook has become increasingly savvy about what it knows about its users. Depending on what information is provided, Facebook can collect information on a child’s birthday, residence, address, phone numbers, school location and other information. Facebook also uses facial identification software to link photos to other information, so you should also be aware of what pictures may be posted of your child.

What is "phishing" and how do I protect my child?

Phishing is an online security breach where the scamming individual or organization presents itself as a trustworthy source to obtain private information. Phishing may occur though private emails and messages where the sender requests private information, such as bank account numbers or a social security number. Always advise your children not to provide information online to any individual or entity without your consent.

Should I allow my children to surf the Internet unsupervised?

Any child could be tempted while online. When surfing the Internet unsupervised, children may come across websites with mature or obscene content. Remember that there are parental controls and applications that can restrict the websites your child is allowed to search, even when you are busy.

How do I protect my child from online predators?

One of the primary concerns of parents is the danger of online predators. Digital and anonymous communication has given access to predators who lure your child into a meeting and dangerous encounter. The best way to ward of predators is to keep your children informed, know who your child is communicating with online, and do your best to monitor Internet usage, either through parental controls, or personal observation.

What is the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act?

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is a U.S. federal law, enacted in 1998, that limits the collection of personal information of persons under the age of 13. The law applies to website operators, agencies, businesses and other institutions, requiring a privacy policy and consent from parents or guardians.

Should my child provide information to non-profits and educational sites?

COPPA is designed for commercial websites that aim for a child audience or who have knowledge that their audience may be under 13. In these cases, non-profits and commercial entities are subject to the law and must obtain a verifiable parental consent when collecting a child’s information. Your child could reasonably provide some or all of information with your consent.

What private information is covered under COPPA?

COPPA protects a child’s online privacy and prevents certain information from being disclosed without parental consent. Under the law, private information includes first and last name, address, online information (e-mail), a screen name that would allow contact, phone numbers, social security number, photographs, a location, or information about parents.

Can my child give information without my consent?

Many parents are concerned about a child providing private data without their knowledge or consent, however, websites that collect information from children under 13 are legally forbidden from doing so without a verifiable parental consent.

How is parental consent established under COPPA?

Under the amended version of the law, website operators must post a clear online privacy policy for personal information collected from users under the age of 13. They must make a reasonable effort using technology to provide direct notice of parents, obtain verifiable consent, provide parents with the opportunity to review information, protect confidentiality, and prevent unauthorized access to that information.

Is COPPA effective to protect my child’s privacy?

Many critics assert that the parental controls are not effective: simply asking for a date of birth is insufficient to prevent misuse or abuse of young website users. Parents with concerns about online privacy should focus on educating children about the dangers of sharing information. Parents and educators can also learn more about parental controls and seek additional resources to track usage and monitor a their child’s Internet access.