In this morning’s papers we note a proposal by EU lawmakers to block teenagers, Under 16, from setting up Social Media and E-mail accounts.
Whilst understanding the thinking behind this, I feel it is a bad idea, simply because it will be unenforceable in reality.
Anyone who has kids in the teen years will know that the idea of parental permission is anathema to them, and I feel they will simply lie about their age and register for the relevant social media accounts anyway.
At the outset such regulation would have immediate impact on the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram etc – some of which parents are now familiar with.
However, it is fair to say that the early adapters in the vast majority of cases are teenagers, and they have been, and will again be on new Social Media channels long before parents even hear about them. So asking parents, in most cases, to give permission, or otherwise, for a Social Media experience that they simply don’t understand is somewhat unreasonable for both parties.
Good law has to be for the greater good of course, but also, it must be seen to be enforceable. This simply won’t work in this case.
In recognising the inherent dangers of Social Media, and with many other aspects of teenage life in particular, I feel it is incumbent upon parents to educate, to inform and to support their children. In particular in this case to have an open discussion with their teenage children about the benefits and dangers of social media, and to offer guidance and support. The strong arm of the law is not the way to go in this case.
This proposal will only encourage teenagers to be deceitful in the first instance about their age, and that’s a bad start to their on-line journey, which of course may come back to haunt them in future if found out.
Finally, regulators must realise that the Social Media/Communications revolution is hardly begun in reality, and that technological developments will see many more Facebook and Twitter type business success stories in the coming years. As previously, the early adapters will be the teen audience in the first instance. Their ability to understand, use and develop new technologies is not to be underestimated, and as such they should be encourage to expand their knowledge bank when it comes to new platforms and not limited or regulated in an unenforceable way.
Good parenting is the key. Not hard rules, regulations and laws.