Could an Internet License Work for Teens and Tweens?

Unfortunately, this blog post contains no full answer to the question posed in the title. We’re looking for answers, or input.

internet age verificationBy “internet license”, I mean something like a driver’s license; government issued (digital?) ID that would serve to positively affirm an internet user’s age when signing up for a social media site or viewing an adult-oriented website. After all, the government is involved in deciding at what age young people are allowed to drive, drink alcohol, see adult-rated movies, buy violent video games and vote.

Most social media sites and adult-oriented websites have a stated age limit, but that age limit is for the most part not enforced. The age limit is applied by some version of “click here if you’re over 18”. The sites have no way of verifying the veracity of your click, nor do they want to because they are hungry for traffic/visitors/members.

The only protection offered to minors comes via the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), and that protection mainly focuses on what personal information that sites can share with advertisers, and only applies to minors under the age of 13. As a parent, I’m more worried about my kids being contacted by a predator or interacting with inappropriate content than I am about them being spammed by advertisers. Add to that the fact that COPPA does not apply to websites such as 4chan if they do not collect personally identifying information.

Many parents, especially those who aren’t too technologically savvy, would benefit from knowing that certain parts of the internet are off limits to their kids. Could the government implement an effective identification mechanism? I’m not sure. I’m confident that it is technologically possible, but could easily end up being something that is no more foolproof than the current system.

Do you have thoughts or a comment? Please let us know below.


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