Are your kids following age restrictions for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok and others?


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At some point, you’ll need to decide whether or not to get your child a cellphone, then you’ll need to figure out the best way to keep them safe when they eventually get on to social media. Social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Spotify, Snapchat, and even YouTube all include age restrictions on their respective platforms.

Kids need to be at least 13 years old to legally be on most social media. This is mostly to protect kids from being abused and exploited on the platforms. It’s all fun and games until pedophilia and cybercrime come along.

Read More: Instagram is testing AI face scanning for age verification on the platform

Why 13?

Thirteen seems like a random number (unless your room number is 13 or it’s Friday the 13th). The inclusion of age restrictions is based on the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) which governs online platforms in the United States. Since most social media platforms are US-based or do business there, it applies to most social platforms. It’s mainly aimed at preventing the collection of information from minors.

“Yes, the minimum age is 13, in compliance with the U.S. Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA),” says Snapchat.

No restrictions on age restrictions

Messaging platform WhatsApp, which most kids illegally use, requires users to be 13 and above in most countries and over 16 years old in countries in the  European Region.

” If you live in any other country except those in the European Region, you must be at least 13 years old (or such greater age required in your country) to register for and use WhatsApp,” says WhatsApp.

Children younger than 13 are prohibited from using WeChat. Those aged between 13 and 18  need a parent or guardian to agree to the platform’s Terms. The agreement applies to both the child and guardian or parent.

Facebook, the biggest social media platform in the world with around 2.9 billion monthly active users, also has a minimum age requirement of 13. You’re not allowed to create an account for younger kids either.

“Creating an account with false info is a violation of our terms. This includes accounts registered on the behalf of someone under 13,” notes Facebook.

Facebook also has features subject to higher age restrictions. Facebook Dating, which is not available in South Africa, has an age restriction of 18 or older. The Meta-owned platform says it will soon use AI on Facebook Dating to verify age. The platform has not said if it eventually plans to use AI to verify users before they join the primary platform or if this will only apply to some of its features.

YouTube allows users who are 13 and older to register an account, but users younger than …are restricted from live streaming on their own. Users will need an older person who is visible with them in order to live stream on the platform.

“To better protect minors on YouTube, we don’t allow children under the age of 13 to live stream unless they are visibly accompanied by an adult,” says YouTube.

Kids younger than 13 can freely register and use YouTube Kids, a safer alternative to the main platform. In theory, anyway. 

Spotify has an age restriction of 18, but users who are 13 and older can use the platform with parental or guardian consent.

Some social media have children’s versions that can be used by those under the age of 13. However, many of these are not available in South Africa. As such, kids in this country are mostly subject to parental supervision when it comes to using these platforms. The likes of Facebook, TikTok, YouTube, and others can mandate minimum ages all they like but, except perhaps in the case of Facebook Dating, enforcing age restrictions falls mostly on the parents of children occupying these spaces.

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