UK lawmakers force social networks to design child-friendly sites

CC Image courtesy of Melanie Twele Flickr

The UK amends its Data Protection Bill requiring websites and apps to follow child-friendly policies in order to protect children online.

This is “the first time, the development needs of children will be taken into consideration in the design of online services, including social media”, according to Anne Longfield, The Children’s Commissioner for England.

Most social media platforms have a minimum age requirement of thirteen years that is not being enforced. A study conducted by Ofcom, the UK’s media regulator, reports that a quarter of children between eight and eleven are on social media or a messaging platform. While fifty percent of children between eleven and twelve have a social media account.

Government intervention and regulation

The amendment made to the Data Protection Bill will also result in the creation of a statutory code of practice on age-appropriate website design. Matt Hancock, the UK’s Minister of State for Digital & Culture said this “will require tailored protections to be built into websites and apps for children under sixteen.”

The Information Commissioner’s Office will be responsible for developing the code of practice that will require websites and apps creators “to make clear what personal data of children is being collected, how it is being used, and how both children and parents can stay in control of this data.”

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport also announced that these codes will be enforceable and non-compliance could result in fines for offenders that could amount to “eighteen million pounds or four percent of global turnover”.

In response to the news Baroness Kidron, founder of 5Rights a civil society that promotes the digital rights of children and young people said, “These amendments unequivocally establish that children are children ― even online.”

Author: Julia Zvobgo

Julia Zvobgo is a Cultural Anthropologist. She is also the Community Manager and Events Manager of Child in the City.

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