Social Media

Google+ & Tech Savvy Kids: #COPPA Fail?

Posted by Samantha DeVita on June 12th, 2012 at 8:26 am

"Hey Sam, my boss' 8-year-old son just joined Google+ and sent him a friend request. Surprise! He didn't even know about Google+. He wants to know about parental controls and how he can activate them on his son's account. Do you have any insight into this…"

This is not one I get everyday at R2integrated, that is for sure. I received this email from a friend, and at first I was shocked that an 8-year-old was able to sign up for a G+ account. But, as FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz recently stated: “In this era of rapid technological change, kids are often tech savvy but judgment poor.” I have to agree. And as a parent myself, I started thinking about the larger issue –online privacy and security related to G+, and what it means for parents and children/adolescents.


In January, children 13 and older in the U.S. became eligible for a Google+ account. In accordance with the 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, Google introduced a number of security and privacy settings to help protect underage users.

If you are a parent with a child online, you need to familiarize yourself with this information.

I would start with the Parents’ Guide to Google +, a basic primer on the workings of Google Plus and how it fits into the larger social space. More importantly, it is full of tips and instructions for having conversations with your kids about the Internet as well as instructions for implementing settings that will help protect your children.

Google has a number of tips and advice for parents in their Family Safety Center. Here’s a quick and dirty run down of the special default settings Google has instituted for teens:

  1. Setting profile sharing to only “my circles” for information such as gender, introduction, bragging rights, occupation, employment, education, places lived, links, other names, “looking for” and relationship status.
  2. Information defaulting to “Only Me” includes home contact information, work contact information and birthdate.
  3. Google+ does not display the names of people under 18 alongside ads and does not allow people under 18 to co-watch age-restricted videos in hangouts.
  4. Google+ prevents teens from navigating directly to pages that are designated for 18 and older. Teens also can’t add those pages to their circles but it may be possible for a teen to see these pages in search results or in a comment on someone else’s post.

Keep in mind that Google works with the information they’re given about a user. Children can overthrow these default settings by giving an older age, which could be what happened in my friend’s situation. So, my question to you is…Does COPPA fail if it can be quickly overridden? Do you think this type of moderation is a parent’s responsibility? Or in a perfect world, is it a combination of both?

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