sign up for accounts on apps like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and WhatsApp.
Why? Because according to Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield, the social media giants have not done enough to make children aware of what they are signing up for when they install an app or open an account on their phone.
“These are often the first contracts a child signs in their life, yet the terms and conditions are impenetrable, even to most adults,” she explained to Daily Mail. “Children have absolutely no idea that they are giving away the right to privacy or the ownership of their data or the material they post online.”
She’s not wrong. In fact, testing with a group of young kids on Instagram’s Terms & Conditions—which, BTW, run 17 pages long—found that it was almost impossible for them to understand what they were signing up for.
Did you know, for example, that Snapchat can publicly display your location on its Snapmap unless you’re in Ghost Mode? Or that Instagram can read your Direct Messages? Or that most of these companies can access your contacts and track your preferences and personal data even when the app is not in use?
Scary, Big Brother-level stuff. Which is why Longfield decided to launch the guide as a way to help kids decode all the confusing terms, and help teachers better educate their students about the value personal data holds.
“These are large, multinational, billion-dollar companies who play a significant part in the lives of many young people,” she explained. “While they are starting to engage with these issues, and I am pleased that Facebook have said they are willing to work with me on making improvements, much more needs to be done by all of these companies to make them accountable and transparent.”
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Maybe it's time for us to start providing the same level of instruction to our kids, so that they understand what privacy they're giving away when they sign up for social media accounts.