Parents have historically struggled with how to address their children’s online activity. Parenting styles differ, but most parents understand that monitoring and supervising their children’s online activity is important and necessary.
There is a federal law, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, (aka, COPPA) that applies to the online activities of children under the age of 13. . In general, COPPA prohibits companies from collecting the personal information of children under the age of 13 without providing notice to a parent or legal guardian and getting their consent.
That means that before your child downloads an app or provides personal information to a company through its website, the company must have written consent from the parents or legal guardian.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the watchdog for COPPA. To show how important it is to the FTC, the agency issued a press release this week announcing that it has fined Musical.ly $5.7 million for violations of COPPA because the company failed to obtain parental consent before collecting the personal information of children using their app.
The Musical.ly (now TikTok) app is free and when one downloads it, they then can create a 15-second video of lip-syncing and dancing and share it with other users. When one registers for the app, they give their name, email address, telephone number, bio and profile picture. All of this is personal information that can’t be collected without parental consent.
According to the FTC, “Musical.ly did not get parents’ consent even though Musical.ly knew that many kids were suing their app,” which justified a $5.7 million payment for failure to comply with COPPA. The company also must remove all recordings made by anyone under the age of 13.
Talking to your children about online activities is obviously a must. This includes visits to websites and social media platforms. It also includes the apps your kids are downloading, so reviewing the requirements of COPPA with them might be an interesting dinner conversation, and looking through the apps on your children’s phones with them will give you an idea of what apps have been downloaded, and whether you gave your consent or not.
And while you are having that dinner conversation with your kids about the apps they have downloaded, it might be interesting to review their privacy settings with them as well.