A children’s commissioner has said social media firms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram must do more to protect children’s digital rights after finding that this vulnerable demographic ‘regularly and unknowingly’ sign over their digital footprints.
Anne Longfield proposes to redress this discrepancy through appointment of a specialist ombudsman to represent children’s interests amongst global tech giants and is also recommending a mandatory citizenship programme, in which the risks and dangers of such contracts would be explained.
It is estimated that close to half of all eight to 11 old’s in England have signed up to opaque terms and conditions which give social media firms enormous leeway to control their personal data by blindly waiving privacy protections and allowing their content to be sold on.
Longfield commented: “It is wholly irresponsible to let them roam in a world for which they are ill-prepared,” she said. “It is vital that children understand what they agree to when joining social media platforms, that their privacy is better protected, and they can have content posted about them removed quickly should they wish to.”
The terms and conditions of such sites can stretch to over 5,000 words of legalese spread across 17 pages which would baffle any adult reading them let alone a child.
Fears have long been expressed about unregulated internet access for children, particularly access to pornography.
Instagram - which contacted The Drum following this article's publication - defended its safety policies, referring to its requirement for users to be at least 13 years old and the tools in place to report accounts run by anyone younger.
"Instagram began as a mobile app, so we have always prioritised giving people easy to understand, clear information about our safety and privacy policies, which can be accessed right from their phones," said Michelle Napchan, Instagram's head of policy, EMEA.
"We provide multiple ways for our community to find the information and resources they need. We recognise in many cases, when people need help, they want it when they’re using the app. That is why we go beyond our terms and guidelines to offer in-app safety and privacy help - from reporting, to industry-leading comment tools and self-help resources. We have also produced a guide for parents to help them talk to their teenagers about internet safety.”