For child internet safety in the UK, in the proposed guidelines Facebook and other social media platforms have been urged to notify children when they are being monitored by their parent or carer. Additionally, on the 16-point list of recommendations, it has been proposed that the “like” function, geo-location and data collection be limited or turned off entirely for platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
It stated that “nudge” techniques employed by platforms to encourage users to behave in a specific way, not excluding Facebook “likes” and Snapchat “streaks”, should not be used to keep users under 18 online anymore. Under the ICO’s proposed code of practice for internet firms, other recommendations include:
- Limiting how children’s personal data is shared, used and collected by social media platforms.
- Ensuring “high privacy” is the default setting for children on social media platforms, all the while disabling targeted advertising and geo-location tools unless there is a very good reason not to.
- Social media companies need to verify that the staff involved during the design and development stage of services aimed at children abide by the code of practice.
- Introduction of strong age verification checks across the board, or treat all users as children.
Companies that fail to abide by the code could face fines up to 4% of their annual turnover, which should be around $1.6 billion for Facebook. The consultation will continue till May, and the final version of the code of practice, referred to as a new international standard, will come into effect by no later than 2020.
The information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, said that since this generation is connected, and the internet is hardwired into every aspect of their lives, children should not be prevented from using the internet. However, they should be protected, which is exactly what the code of practice will ensure.
While developing the code of practice, the ICO requested feedback from children and parents, and even designers, academics and app developers for that matter.
Will the Code of Practice Really Make a Difference?
Even though the code of practice has great potential, it leaves out other important aspects associated with using the internet. It will not gain as much traction as it should, as there is more to the internet than just social media.
Of course, this does not mean safety measures should not be set in place, but that is just never going to be enough. It would be better if considerable or equal efforts were made to educate children about using the internet. With the proper knowledge, they will be able to protect themselves, rather than allotting someone else for them.
Apart from education, children should also be encouraged to use a VPN whenever online. VPNs are a necessity these days, seeing how hackers and cybercriminal activity is at an all-time high. Not only will this ensure they are not exploited by cybercriminals, but the chances of them giving away personal or confidential information will be considerably less.