Why Can’t My Kids Have Facebook?

This week’s question comes from my children, asking, “Why can’t we have a Facebook account?” One word kids — COPPA

Well kids, it really isn’t my fault. While I don’t want you to have a Facebook account yet because as parents we feel you are too young to handle social media responsibly, there are actually some legal issues why Facebook requires you to be 13 years old to have an account.

The legal issue at play here is a major concept in cyber security, and its called COPPA or the Child Online Privacy Protection Act. COPA was enacted into law in 1998 and went into effect open April 21, 2000. COPPA restricts the online collection of personal information by people or corporations from children under the age of 13. Since my kids are only 10 and 12, Facebook cannot legally allow a child to create their own account without parental consent.

The COPPA law also prevents marketing to children under 13 years old and provides specific responsibilities that the corporations must follow in protecting the child’s privacy and safety online.

Due to the red tape that gets involved here, most social media websites have simply decided to make the minimum age of signup to be at least 13 years old, therefore they don’t have to deal with all the work and cost required to comply with the law’s provisions.

So, why is this important to you as someone working in the cyber security field? Well, if your company allows creation of accounts by children under the age of 13, you have a ton of compliance issues you better be aware of in regards to COPPA. Well, that and exams like the CISSP like to ask you questions about COPPA. Either way, you should at least be familiar enough to know the law exists, and that you should consult legal counsel if you are marketing towards or collecting information on children under 13 years of age.

But, back to the original question, should I allow my kids on Facebook before they turn 13? Well, that is a parenting decision we have made, but what do you guys think? What age is the right age to start letting your kids onto social media? Let me know in the comments below, I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Jason Dion, CISSP No. 349867, is a Adjunct Instructor at Liberty University’s College of Engineering and Computational Science and Anne Arundel Community College’s Department of Computing Technologies with multiple information technology professional certifications, including Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), Certified Network Defense Architect (CNDA), Digital Forensic Examiner (DFE), Digital Media Collector (DMC), Security+, Network+, A+, and Information Technology Infrastructure Library v3. With networking experience dating back to 1992, Jason has been a network engineer for the United States Navy Southern Command, served as the Deputy Director of the Theater Network Operations Center Middle East, and the Information Systems Officer for Navy Information Operations Command Maryland. Jason holds a Master’s of Science degree in Information Technology with a specialization in Information Assurance from University of Maryland University College, a Master’s of Arts and Religion in Pastoral Counseling, and a Bachelor’s of Science in Human Resources Management from New School University. He lives in the greater Washington D.C./Baltimore, Maryland area with his wife and two children.