The Internet is full of information, but also full of real risks for children, like online predators or the pitfalls of losing privacy when kids share too much information. In a new University of Michigan poll, the majority of the public supports updating federal laws that require Internet safety standards to protect kids.
The University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health recently asked adults nationwide about Internet use and proposed changes to the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, known as COPPA.
COPPA was enacted to protect young children from some of these Internet dangers by prohibiting collection of personal information through websites if the user is under age 13. But COPPA was written in 1998, before the dawn of smartphones, applications and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.
The Federal Trade Commission is considering updating COPPA to reflect technology advances in the past decade.
The poll found that two-thirds of adults think children should be at least 13 years old to use the Internet on their own. But 29 percent of the parents with children age 9 to 12 said their children have their own handheld Wi-Fi enabled devices, which may mean children are online and unsupervised.
Although social networking sites like Facebook restrict access to users under age 13, 18% of parents polled said their children age 9-12 have their own social networking profile.
So it's not surprising that adults think COPPA needs updating, says Matthew M. Davis M.D., M.A.P.P., director of the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health.
"For parents, COPPA may be the most important piece of federal legislation you've never heard of," said Davis, who is also associate professor of pediatrics and internal medicine at the U-M Medical School and associate professor of public policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.
"So much has changed in the 14 years since COPPA was enacted: Facebook, Twitter and other social networks, along with applications. This report underscores the concerns among the general public to make sure proper safeguards are enacted to protect kids."