Over the past few months, online tools are keeping us connected, social, and together. Beyond the personal connection, technology is also allowing more than 1 billion students to continue to learn as they are out of school or beginning a hybrid program. Prior to school closures in the spring and lockdowns, we already knew online users under the age of thirteen (U13) have become one of the fastest growing digital audiences around the world. Nearly half (46 percent) of US tweens have a smartphone. 81 percent of the world’s children and 92 percent of US children have an online presence before they turn 2. In the wake of COVID-19, kids are online nearly quadrupling digital engagement and screen time. Now is the time for companies to get it right when it comes to responsibly engaging with youth and their families.  

With all this engagement, we are still seeing digital services either turning away U13 children and missing an opportunity or have actual knowledge that children U13 have gamed the registration and are using the service which creates risk to children’s online privacy and puts the company in a vulnerable position. Let’s face it, children lie about their age online. Children in the age range of 10 to 12 will more times than not attempt to age up when presented with an age gate.


Why are kids aging up?

Kids don’t like being blocked and will always find a way in. In many cases, parents are informally approving their children to create accounts with some level of false data.

Platforms such as Facebook and Google often serve as an online identity. Children have lied about their age to access these platforms. This means the child now has a ‘fake ID’ allowing him or her access to other age restricted products without a bouncer at the door verifying who they really are. The implications of this are far reaching and potentially hugely impactful on their well-being, future and putting the brand at risk.


It's time kids have their own online identity

Children need to own their online identity allowing for a  single sign on (SSO) with minimal information being collected, proper age verification and ability to receive parental consent. Not only do they need control over their personal data as do their parents, they should also be afforded safety measures and protection from harm just as they are in the offline world, while at the same time letting them build a trusting relationship with their most loved brands.

The SSO should grow with the child through their teens and beyond in adulthood. Fostering a privacy preserving digital ecosystem which encourages organizations to safely and responsibly engage with children and families is paramount not just for legal compliance, but for building a strong brand.


Curious by nature

Children are curious by nature and will always want to try the forbidden and test the boundaries – it is part of growing up. It is therefore the job of industry, parents, regulators and educators to give them the tools and protections to allow them to engage online in a meaningful way, instead of enabling them to lie about their age or blocking them entirely. Children are always online, there is no off switch in their world so turning a blind eye on protecting children online is not the answer.

To continue to engage this increasingly captive user base now and post COVID-19, companies need to ask how are they are going to retain and foster these young users? Do they have a digital strategy in place to let kids under 13 even create accounts? Let PRIVO help you talk through your strategy. The time is now!


About the Author

Claire Quinn is VP of Compliance for PRIVO. PRIVO is the leading global industry expert in children & family online privacy, identity and consent management. PRIVO’s signature Kids Privacy Assured Program helps companies and schools navigate the online privacy landscape from COPPA, GDPR and the