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January 8th, 2021

Privacy Protections for Your Children

Privacy Protections for Your Children

We’ve talked before at length about some of the risks children face when exploring apps and online games without certain safeguards in place. From predatory advertising to accidental expenditures, the world wide web is woven with sticky traps that kids can easily wander into. We take children’s online safety very seriously, and will take every opportunity we can to share information about how to keep kids safe from all kinds of threats and pitfalls.

Today, we’re going to take a look at COPPA, the original goals of the act, and what further steps parents can take to ensure their children’s personal information stays in the right hands.

COPPA, or the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act is a federal law that took effect back in 2000. It guarantees certain protections for children, barring the collection of private or identifying information for children under the age of 13. The goal of the act was to protect children from exploitation and targeted advertising, but a lot has changed in the more than 20 years since the law was passed. We wanted to take a look at what COPPA can and can’t protect your children from online, and what steps you can take to further safeguard them, their image, and their privacy.

Most sites you and your family visit collect data about your demographics, from your age to your purchasing habits. That’s a risk most sites warn you about when you visit the page, but it’s highly unlikely that your children are reading the privacy terms when doing their homework or using their favorite apps. COPPA was introduced to protect children from having their private information stored or sold for advertising purposes, but the very state of children’s internet access has shifted entirely in the 20 years since its inception.

Additional protections and legislation are introduced frequently, including the KIDS Act which proposed the following: 

  • Ending “manipulative and damaging design features” which push children to spend more time with screens, such as auto-play video
  • Implementing rules that dictate how and what ads kids see online
  • Creating rules that make sure algorithms do not surface extreme content to children
  • Requiring companies give parents guidance on “kid-healthy content”
  • Establishing incentives for “positive content creation” and
  • Creating a transparency requirement for tech companies around automated systems, enforced by the Federal Trade Commission

The PROTECT Act (Preventing Real Online Threats Endangering Children Today) was designed to build on the initiatives of COPPA, with the following additional provisions:

  • Raises the age of parental consent protections from children under the age of 13 to children under the age of 16.
  • Adds precise geolocation information and biometric information as two new categories of personal information which are protected under COPPA.
  • Affirms that rules under COPPA also include protections to children on mobile applications in addition to already existing rules for websites and online services.
  • Provides parents the ability to delete any personal information about their child, a feature never before afforded to parents under COPPA to protect their children.
  • Requires the FTC to conduct a study on the knowledge standard found in COPPA and report recommendations to Congress.

In spite of these reinvigorated efforts, many apps designed specifically for children are spending significant time and money in court after failing to protect children’s privacy, or being caught storing their information. 
You are always going to be the first line of defense for your family. Staying on top of parental controls, monitoring your child’s use of social media, and protecting their images on your own pages is a surprisingly effective way to keep kids safe. No app will ever replace parental diligence and intuition!

We are thrilled at all of the work being done to protect kids online, and we are even more inspired by the way people have taken privacy into their own hands.

Apps like DuckDuckGo provide better encryption, safeguarding your family’s private data seamlessly as you move between apps and webpages. It also constantly monitors the safety of pages your family visits, alerting you of scams or privacy vulnerabilities on each page. Other apps like NetNanny offer the additional protection of monitoring your children’s activity online, even filtering applications and pages users are able to access. Use caution when installing apps like NetNanny, which can pose a privacy concern for adults using the same device.

Finding ways to continue tying up the loopholes apps and sites find to mine your children’s data will be an ongoing mission, and Wonder Bunch will continue looking for options and solutions for our family, and for yours!
As the web gets wider, and your children start straying further from your pre-screened pages, it’s nice to know that technology and privacy protection laws are doing their best to stay one step ahead of predatory practices!