The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has warned Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat to tighten up their age controls and kick off underage users.
The ICO stepped in after it became aware that millions of British children join the platform before they were 13. New ICO guidelines state that social media giants must examine whether they put children at risk -- by showing minors adverts for
alcohol or gambling, for example.
The guidance, which is under consultation, also calls on the firms to do a better job of kicking underage users off their platforms, and to stop or deter children from sharing their information online.
Elizabeth Denham, the Information Commissioner, threatened:
Whether designing services to provide protection for children or having a system to verify age, organisations, including social media companies, need to change the way they offer services to children.
It's also vital that we ensure children's interests and rights are protected online in the same way they are in all other aspects of life.
In November, an Ofcom report revealed that half of British 12-year-olds and more than a quarter of ten-year-olds have their own social media profiles. At the moment, all the major web giants demand that users are over 13 before they get an account
-- but they do next to nothing to enforce that rule.
Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat insist it is unrealistic to have to verify the age of users under the age of 18.
The ICO does not seem to have addressed the enormity of their demand. Facebook and social networks are the very essence of smart phones. If children aren't allowed to share things, how does any website or app feed up news and articles to anyone if
it does now what the reader likes nor who is linked to that person. Typing in what you want to see is no longer practical or desirable, so the basic idea of sending people more of what they have already shown they liked is the only game in town.
Of course the kids could play games all day instead, but maybe that has a downside too.