Most parents have never heard of COPPA, a federal law passed in 1998 and still in effect today. COPPA is the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. It requires the Federal Trade Commission to enact and enforce regulations that protect the privacy of information provided to internet sites and social media apps geared to children under age 13.
COPPA can be a valuable tool for parents to help ensure your younger child’s safety on the internet. Its goal is to give parents the control over what information is collected online from their children under age 13. COPPA applies to commercial websites and online services, including mobile apps, directed to children under 13 that collect, use or disclose to others personal information from children.
According to the FTC’s website, commercial websites and social media/apps covered by COPPA must:
- Provide direct notice to parents and obtain verifiable parental consent, with limited exceptions, before collecting personal information online from children;
- Give parents the choice of consenting to the operator’s collection and internal use of a child’s information, but prohibiting the operator from disclosing that information to third parties (unless disclosure is integral to the site or service, in which case, this must be made clear to parents);
- Provide parents access to their child’s personal information to review and/or have the information deleted;
- Give parents the opportunity to prevent further use or online collection of a child’s personal information;
- Maintain the confidentiality, security, and integrity of information they collect from children, including by taking reasonable steps to release such information only to parties capable of maintaining its confidentiality and security; and
- Retain personal information collected online from a child for only as long as is necessary to fulfill the purpose for which it was collected and delete the information using reasonable measures to protect against its unauthorized access or use.
By 2013, the sharp increase in younger children accessing the internet on mobile phones resulted in a COPPA amendment requiring parental consent to collect children’s geolocation data, photographs, videos and audio recordingsfrom mobile devices. Rules also forbid developers of apps from collecting children’s personal information through third-party apps or plugins without parental consent.
Of course, these privacy safeguards are useless if your child fakes being older to open an online account. It’s still your job as a parent to educate your child about the importance of keeping personal information private as a part of safe usage of the internet. Close monitoring of younger children’s internet usage is of paramount importance at this vulnerable tween age.
The Law Office of Jeanne Coleman practices family law, dependency law, and social security disability law in the Tampa Bay community. Providing helpful information to families online is one more way Jeanne gives back to our community. Her law firm has helped families resolve important legal issues for over twenty-five years. A free twenty-minute consultation is available by contacting her office.