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Everything You Need To Know About COPPA And Its Limitations

Everything you should know about COPPA

Is your child younger than 13 years?
Do you know what COPPA is and how it affects them?

COPPA or the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act is a law dealing with to what extent apps, websites, and other online platforms are allowed to collect data and personal information from kids under the age of 13.

Your child must be a regular internet user. Because who isn’t? But, do you really follow precautions while exposing them to the sea of information i.e. the Internet.

That’s where COPPA comes in. COPPA is for ensuring that these websites do not misuse your child’s personal data and enforces certain rules and regulations for the same.

Wondering which organizations, websites need to comply with COPPA? Let’s find out a bit about it.

What comes under the radar of COPPA?

COPPA was originally designed for businesses under U.S jurisdiction. Since the Internet is not limited  by the borders of nations, this act reached beyond the boundaries of the United States. Entities that have to follow COPPA rules are:-

  • All commercial websites and online services that are directed towards children aged 13 or less.
  • Sites or online services that are aware that they are collecting individual data from children under 13 on their platform. 
  • Any third-party website that collects personal information of kids knowingly from any other website. 

But what exactly comes under the personal information of kids?

What is individual information according to COPPA?

According to this rule, personal information of children entails : 

  • Name of your child.
  • Residential address including street name and name of the city.
  • Their consumer profiles

Other than that, any information that can be used to track down or identify a child comes under personal information. 

According to this rule, personal information of children entails : 

  • Name of your child.
  • Residential address including street name and name of the city.
  • Their consumer profiles

Other than that, any information that can be used to track down or identify a child comes under personal information.

What does the act specify?

  1. Websites or apps or any online service must seek parent’s permission by sending them a direct notice before using or collecting any personal information of young users. This notice should be verifiable.
  2. Online services directed to children should post privacy policies online or on their website so that visitors make familiar operator’s information practices. These privacy policies should include the name, address,  contact number, and email address of each entry that is collecting personal information. Also, how this information is getting collected and how this personal information will be used in the future should be specified. 
  3. Websites should notify parents whenever they make any alterations to their privacy policy. 

Loopholes in COPPA

Every rule or regulation comes with its limitations & COPPA is no exception to the rule. Here are certain aspect of this law that need attention : 

  • Government organizations like schools or non-profit educational websites don’t have to obey COPPA rules and regulations. Even if these groups are sharing the data with a third party, they don’t need to comply with COPPA. 
  • Parental consents are often delayed and it often leads to children moving on to other activities that are inappropriate according to their age or maybe more harmful to their privacy. 
  • It was designed for kids under 13 years of age. But no parent would be comfortable sharing personal information of their 14 or even 16-year-old child. 
  • Circumventing age restriction and forging parental consent is literally a kid’s task. 
  • Online services that don’t collect the age of their users like Tiktok can easily make their way out. 
  • COPPA does not restrict your child from accessing inappropriate materials online, such as pornography. 

COPPA came into force in the year 2000. It’s been almost 21 years but we haven’t seen many changes in this rule. For sure, it is not enough for protecting children’s data in this digital era. Parents need to take initiative for ensuring the overall safety of kids.

What can you do as a parent?

Gaps that were left open in COPPA rules can be filled if parents are aware enough. Certain limitations in COPPA are putting the privacy of kids at stake and they need to be addressed immediately.

Parents can follow these simple precautions from their side to ensure their child’s safety :

  1. Talk to them about how the Internet is permanent and anything they upload on it can stay for a shockingly long time. They should only upload their pictures or a residential address if it is necessary. 
  2. Keep the location of your child’s device private. Apps making use of the geo-tagging feature can extract information about the user’s whereabouts and use or sell this data for their own purpose. 
  3. Educate them on how to keep information private on social media. Make sure that they know what is cyber-bullying, how to report/block someone or inappropriate pages. 
  4. Virtual friendships are not how they seem. Behind the face of most of the sugar-coated persons on the internet, lies a devilish face hawking to take advantage of your child. Ask them often who their online friends are and on which topics they talk about. 
  5. Set screen time controls on their devices by using a parental control app. Keep track of how much time they are devoting online.
  6. Monitor which sites they are visiting and what content they are accessing there. 

Concluding Thoughts

COPPA is surely a good initiative for safe online experiences of kids but it is not really fulfilling the purpose. Certain loopholes in this act are giving chance to online services to take out their absolute arbitrariness. 

Parents can ensure children’s online safety at ground level by installing parental controls in their devices. Parental control apps like Bit Guardian Parental Control 

  • can limit your child’s screen time
  • block the apps which are hampering their security
  • give control to parents to monitor their child’s online activity including their chats and emails and what content they are sharing. 

That way, parents can warn their children beforehand of any potential threats to their security, thus keeping their children safe from the dangers of the cyber world. 

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About author

Somya Shrimal is a content writer by profession and by heart. She loves to write about technology, lifestyle, fashion and books. Being an electrical engineer , she has a passion to learn and try new things. Somya likes reading, writing, travelling and of course food.
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