Social Media Terms And Conditions Are Failing Our Children

“Borrrrring! It doesn’t make any sense.” “Do I have to read the whole thing? There are, like, 100 pages!”

Sound familiar? Perhaps the response you’d expect from your much loved but sometimes demanding child to your suggestion that they read the instructions for their new Christmas toy?

Wrong. It’s actually the Terms and Conditions of social media sites that have got our children and young teens – the ‘growing up digital generation’ – tearing their carefully gelled hair out.

The Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, tested the Terms and Conditions of a popular children’s social media site with a group of young people, and the comments above are just a few of the weary responses.

The test forms part of a report entitled Growing Up Digital which makes for disturbing reading. It reveals that youngsters are not prepared for what they are signing up to online, and are frequently unaware of how much personal information they are giving away and what the implications of this might be.

Although social media sites claim that they have always prioritised giving people easy to understand, clear information about their safety and privacy policies, both the Children’s Commissioner and I, along with a whole host of others believe that the odds are stacked against children online. Social media and online operating companies are global, private and operate beyond the reach of national laws. The teenagers taking the Children’s Commissioner Terms and Conditions test (a ‘mere’ 17 pages and 5,ooo words long), can be forgiven, I think, for not knowing what they were signing up to. They are now the biggest users of a network that was not designed for them.

Of course, the first unofficial rule when your ‘computer crashes’ states: “in times of technical trouble, ask your child to help and they will cheerfully tempt your laptop back to life”. No-one doubts their instinctive savvy when it comes to sorting the iPhone or troubleshooting your tablet. But children are children until they become adults, not…

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