Interesting news out of the U.K. this week – it looks like they have figured out a way to verify the age of internet users, in cases where age verification is a benefit to the system.
This is an area of great concern for us, principally because there are rules regarding the minimum age for social media platforms, and yet the network operators are unable or unwilling to enforce those rules.
Let’s use Instagram as an example, which not surprisingly has a lot of underage users. The stated age limit is 13, but you have to go out of your way to find where that age limit is written. When signing up for an account, you do need to provide a phone number or email address, but at no point are you asked your age, or that you are at least 13 years old. Any kid with a phone can sign up regardless of age.
The current plan is to use the age check system on UK Government websites, but in the future it will be extended to commercial services. For example, a proposed law will require adult content providers (in the UK) to certify that users are 18 in order to access that content in the future.
According to GOV.UK Verify, your age and identity can be verified in about 10 minutes the first time you use it, and it takes seconds to do it for any sites you visit afterwards.
Can such technology be extended to social media sites? For sure it can, and we hope it will be. Almost every teen has a smartphone, and some parents desperately want to control which apps they’re using and what content they are accessing without taking the phone away completely or implementing parental controls.
At present, the age limits for social media are no match for enterprising teens and tweens who want to get around the rules. This is exactly the type of problem that can be solved by technology. Let’s make it happen.
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