Google+ And The Underage Dilemma

by Team Caffeine · 0 comments

lori r taylor, revmediamarketing, social media, social media marketing, branding, product branding, networking, oneclicksocietyThe Kids Are Alright
The saying goes that the kids will take care of themselves, but those days are long gone. Today, with the advent of social media, it is easier than ever for kids to get themselves into trouble, leave themselves open to predators and cause havoc. There is a law which prohibits social media companies from collecting any personal data from children under the age of 13, but this hardly stopped the influx of kids to sites like Facebook and Twitter. Most of them have their parents permission to be online, regardless of what the law says. But social media sites run a real risk of facing serious fines and possibly charges if they don’t do everything in their power to prevent this from happening.

What’s A Kid To Do?
Most of the kids want to be online because it’s still relatively “cool.” Just like smoking was “cool” because all their parents did it, being on social media is just as cool. Unfortunately these networks were designed for adults and often contain adult information, making them inappropriate for children. MySpace, Facebook and Twitter have all struggled with the issue of children trying to open accounts on their networks, and each of them struggles to keep up with the daily surge of new “underage” accounts.

Google+ Is No Exception

Google+, too, has faced similar problems, even in its few short weeks of existence. Google has a number of social networks like YouTube, Picasa, Buzz and now, Google+. Their Gmail system is also not exempt from U.S. rules regulating children’s use of the service. So far they have been very vigilant about shutting down unauthorized accounts, but as their site grows it will likely become an even bigger problem going forward. I expect they will work on automating their system to provide additional filters to keep the kids at bay, so their parents can play – or work, some of us work on social media 🙂

Google+, Google’s latest — and, industry experts say, most promising — attempt to break into the social-networking sphere, launched on June 28. In its first few weeks, people had to get off a waiting list to get into the site. But these days, if you want to be part of the Google+ club, it’s much easier to find your way through the velvet ropes. Just be sure to have your ID ready at the door. Now that Google is helping you socialize, it’s going to need some basic information, including how old you are. And if you’re underage, your best bet is to try another social network. Unless you — and your parents — are ready to tell a 30-cent fib.

Google+ is currently not allowing anyone under the age of 18 to join its social circles. For those 13 to 17, their time will soon come: Google is developing safety features before welcoming in the pubescent masses that have long run wild on Facebook and MySpace. But kids under 13, like Alex, are seemingly out of luck. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), a federal regulation that took effect in April 2000, forbids sites from collecting personal information from children under 13 without consent from their parents. “It’s not as simple as just asking a parent for consent to let their child have an account,” a Google spokesperson explained via e-mail. “There are associated implications for data and privacy involved,” like reporting requirements about how information is being collected and used, and in some cases there has to be an option for parents to forbid third parties from accessing such data. That’s why Facebook and some other sites simply forbid those under 13 from signing up in the first place.

“We’ve recently started asking for a user’s age in more contexts, and we plan to start asking for age on more of our properties over time,” says the Google spokesperson. For example, about a year and a half ago, Gmail began to ask for ages when creating accounts in the U.S. “If we learn that someone is not old enough to have a Google account or we receive a report, we will investigate and take the appropriate action.” (Google is also raising hackles for not allowing anyone, regardless of age, to register for a Google+ account using a pseudonym.)

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Team Caffeine

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