Livingstone, Sonia, Kjartan Ólafsson, and Elisabeth Staksrud. “Risky Social Networking Practices Among “Underage” Users: Lessons for Evidence‐Based Policy.” Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication (2013).
There are growing public calls for social networking services (SNS) providers to remove age restrictions and to recognize that children want – and have the right to – use these services. Facebook’s CEO recently announced his wish to remove age restrictions. Also, some child welfare organizations argue that if children can be accurately identified by age on registration, then providers could be required to and would be able to deliver targeted age-appropriate protective advice/measures including upgraded control features, child-friendly user tools and safety information, privacy settings by default, and easy-to-use reporting mechanisms. If age restrictions are removed, the numbers of young children using SNS would likely rise substantially, passing regulatory responsibility to parents who, based on the evidence from this survey, might find this difficult. About half of parents want to restrict their children’s use of SNS. More fundamentally, this conclusion implies that it is in children’s best interests that younger ones do not use SNSs (or at least, those used also by adults) unless appropriate safety features are in place. In other words, we suggest that the risk (to privacy, safety and self-esteem of children) is likely to outweigh the benefits of SNS use. Although the evidence for this claim is sparse, we would call for qualitative research to explore the unfolding interaction among children’s desires, parental concerns, technological affordances, and observable outcomes. There is scope also for further research into the effectiveness and legitimacy of self-regulation for child protection on the internet.
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