back to article Children should have separate sections in social media sites, says UK coroner

UK coroner Andrew Walker has sent a report to Meta, Pinterest, Twitter, Snapchat, and the government itself recommending that adults and children each have their own parts of the platform to prevent harm to youngsters. The coroner's report [PDF] comes after the death of 14-year-old Molly Russell in 2017, with Walker concluding …

  1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    All age verification boils down to:

    "Are you over 18?"

    "Yes"

    How do you verify that that "Yes" is not a lie?

    1. b0llchit Silver badge
      Joke

      How do you verify that that "Yes" is not a lie?

      Because I always tell the truth. Ask my parents (or guardians).

    2. ThatOne Silver badge
      Devil

      Nah, the idea behind all this is to force you to give real ID (real name, address, national ID numbers where available, etc.), so the usage data gathered about you can be reliably labeled and thus sold at a much higher price. Governments are very fond of the idea, not only because it pleases their sugar daddies, but also because it allows to keep tabs on the biggest threat any government faces, the opposition.

      Now creating specific children-free zones allows to siphon data without having to bother filtering for potential underage users, which could potentially get you in hot water.

      It's all about making money or staying in power, the rest is just propaganda to justify the means.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Verification and identification

      In theory, it's not difficult. But doing so requires some form of identification, and many children will not have anything that can be used, so it is passed to the parents to prove who they are, and then vouch for their children. Too often, this becomes "give us some credit/debit card information, we won't charge you anything above proving it's valid, honest".

      Bit even this can be spoofed, so that older people can impersonate children in these 'safe' spaces, especially if stolen financial information is used.

      This also does not sit will with the privacy advocates, especially as they then get a handle on children, their parents, and the relationships between them, and financial information of the parents.

      <sarcasm>Of course what is really needed here is some form of government backed, biometric identification, issued at birth, to allow people to positively prove who and how old they are!</sarcasm>

      Only In your wet dreams, politicians and police.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Verification and identification

        And on top of that, a frightening number of parents over the world would likely give consent anyway, for whatever reasons.

        Where I live, for example, there is a live e-scooter trial underway, and one of the main conditions is that you need to have a provisional driving licence to hire one (and so be over 17).

        In one recent case, the police stopped an 8-year-old on one whose mother had paid for it for him. If I remember, she tried 'Oh, I didn't know'. She bloody well did.

        There have been similar examples given, and you see young teenagers and pre-teens on them regularly (piggybacking and riding dangerously - both also prohibited under the hire terms).

        Age checking has a lot of loopholes people will willingly exploit.

    4. Alumoi Silver badge

      By asking for a credit card number. For verification purpose only. Trust me. Ah, heck, that's old tech.

      Let's try this: live video chat with an official ID held up next to the face. Much better. But wait, with all that deepfakes around, that's not secure.

      Hmm, maybe some kind of government issued IeP (Internet ePassport). Hell yes, that's the ticket. How soon can we get the new law enacted?

      /sarcasm

      /joke

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Happy

        I note your coded lines at the end, so I am not taking you out of context, but taking one example you mentioned - face-to-face - there are enough people out there for whom a sale is way more important than rules. More than enough of them. They'd willingly ignore what they saw if they were on commission.

        It's why local corner shops get stung regularly for selling alcohol and tobacco to underage people. The more worrying part of that is how many don't get caught, but that's a different story.

        When you think about it, pretty much the best possible way (in theory) is an actual DNA check (let's assume the tech exists to do that at point of sale in a few seconds, and it is accurate). But of course, that would need a DNA database, probably created by sampling people as they are born - and no one is ever going to agree with that (and I am not suggesting it should happen in any way).

        But even if we had it, someone would find a way of fooling it. Or at least trying to.

        It is people - some of them - who are the real problem.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        "By asking for a credit card number. For verification purpose only. Trust me. Ah, heck, that's old tech."

        My youngest sister (half-sister really) had a credit card at age 8. It was on her dad's account. We'd have all sorts of fun letting her pick up the check for dinner out or sometimes my other sister and I would take her shopping if mom was going to spring for some new clothes for us. She had an official state ID to go with the card so people wouldn't decline to take it thinking she just lifted it from mom's purse.

  2. Howard Sway Silver badge

    Meta tells The Reg it's working on parental controls

    It's a shame it inevitably had to come to this, but due to the amount of awful shit posted by adults on these sites it's quite right that kids should be given controls to limit what their parents can do on them.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Meta tells The Reg it's working on parental controls

      Can't the reg develop its own parental controls? Perhaps a set of age appropriate questions?

      Mumps is:

      1, A disease you used to get in the olden days

      2, The vaccine that mum thinks caused me to like computers

      3, Arggh no, please don't make me touch it , no please arghhhhh

      A Gender changer is:

      1, That theatre studies kid that insists on being called them.

      2, Woke rubbish from these tofu eating gruniad readers

      3, Look I was born DTE and I'm not becoming DCE for anyone

  3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Why is age verification an invasion of privacy ?

    If you want to buy alcohol, you need to adult.

    If you want to enter a night club, you need to be adult.

    If you want to drive a car, you need to be adult.

    We have long decided that there are things children shouldn't be doing, and we have put protocols in place. Why should the Internet be any different ?

    Especially since the Internet is a place where the worst of human tendancies show up.

    Now, I have no idea how this should happen, but I pretty much agree it should.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Why is age verification an invasion of privacy ?

      Well when I was a child I had "parent". These beings were nominally in charge of my welfare and tended to perform duties in that field, such as enforcing bed time and not allowing me a 3rd chocolate pudding. Had t'Inernat been around at that point I have no doubt they could have controlled my possession of a phone and I dare say looked at it from time to time.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why is age verification an invasion of privacy ?

        Indeed. Back when we were kids there was no Internet but access to the tellybox was the big thing. I was a way into my teens before I was allowed a little portable set in my bedroom. And the thought of having unfettered access to a telecommunications device was but a pipe dream.

      2. LDS Silver badge

        Re: Why is age verification an invasion of privacy ?

        Parents were still helped by a system that hindered children to access things deemed too dangerous for them even when parents were not present - because no parent can be present 24x7.

        That kind of control does not exist on the internet. Moreover it became a magnet for loons trying to hurt other people, again something that in the physical realm is not so easy to perform because people can be usually discovered because they can't hide so easily.

        The internet could be some anarchoid dream - but it could become just a nightmare.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Why is age verification an invasion of privacy ?

          "That kind of control does not exist on the internet"

          Yes it does, but it's not on the internet, it's at the home. If the child doesn't have access to the internet in their room with the door closed, that's one filter. If the access is limited by time of day and by some filtering software, that's another gatekeeper. Even if the kids find away around some of those blocks, and they will, regular access can be locked down as a punishment. It takes parents that are interested enough to look into and learn how to use some of these virtual locks, but the easy step of putting the computer out in the open might work well. Having a lock box/charging station for phones would be a good idea. At bedtime, the phone gets locked up with a plug available to charge it back up. The phone could also spend the overnight hours on their parents bedside table where they can review any calls or other communications that are outside of age appropriate times.

    2. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: Why is age verification an invasion of privacy ?

      > Why is age verification an invasion of privacy ?

      Well, it's not the age verification itself, but the way it is done on Internet. When you buy alcohol or enter a nightclub, usually a glimpse at your face is enough to assess age. Driving a car is similar in that unless you're clearly suspect you won't be controlled (I've only been controlled twice in my whole life).

      On Internet this is different: You are invisible, and thus to show you're an adult you would need to give the website some personal information (ID, credit card) that website can easily lose or even willingly misuse (for instance, resell).

      Given websites generally range from "not necessarily trustworthy" to "absolutely not trustworthy", this is a recipe for disaster - for you, the user. Your ID and credit card details will eventually be lost, resold, misused and you will be the one picking up the pieces. What do you gain from this? Nothing except some vague reassurance that you "saved the children". Did you? No, I don't think so: If your children want to abuse the system they will, it's easy to borrow your parents' credit card (or ID) long enough to copy the data and then pretend to be them as needed...

      So it's a lose-lose situation.

      1. Captain Hogwash

        Re: borrow your parents' credit card (or ID)

        Not even that. This thing is likely to be only in those countries which have mandated it. So the kids will simply VPN to a country which hasn't.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: borrow your parents' credit card (or ID)

          Possession of a VPN will be illegal since it's only purpose is to break the law protecting children.

          You aren't against protecting children are you citizen ?

          1. Captain Hogwash

            Re: Possession of a VPN will be illegal

            Corporations won't stand for that.

            1. Oglethorpe

              Re: Possession of a VPN will be illegal

              Quite an assumption that the rules we have to follow will apply to corporations.

              1. Captain Hogwash

                Re: Possession of a VPN will be illegal

                How will anyone know which VPNs are corporate and otherwise?

                1. JimmyPage

                  Re: Possession of a VPN will be illegal

                  You'll pay for an "approved" one.

      2. LDS Silver badge

        Re: Why is age verification an invasion of privacy ?

        A place where underage people cannot enter may have legal issues if found. Driving a car implies you have obtained a driving licenses, and again if you are caught driving a car without one will put you and the car owner in trouble - and insurance won't pay, for example. There are still people who try to break the law - but they are not many, because of the consequences.

        We can simply move the check ex-post instead of ex-ante. Don't require any check for registering. Let's fine them heavily - really heavily, including jail time in certain cases - all those systems when caught giving access to underage people when forbidden.

        Believe me, they will be able to identify their age within a day of precision, and to protect their business, they will block them.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Why is age verification an invasion of privacy ?

          Who? The child that can't be held legally responsible? Or the company which has a bulletproof ToS?

          If your 5 year old wants to get on the internet because he's heard that playboy.com is a great place to play, for a boy...well, that's on you. If keeping your 5 year old off of playboy.com means that I, a 50 year old, has to jump through hoops when accessing theregister.co.uk, then you can f*** right o**.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Why is age verification an invasion of privacy ?

            "If your 5 year old wants to get on the internet because he's heard that playboy.com is a great place to play, for a boy...well, that's on you. "

            That's an easy one as just about every parental filter software package is going to have that one on it's list along with most of the usual sites such as pornhub and naughtygirlsofchelsea.com. They can't cover them all, but the same software can produce a log of URLs a user account has accessed and give parents a way to add ones that aren't yet listed to the blacklist. There can even be add-on packs for people's choices of gods and what sorts of things that god may not like with tick boxes for sub-factions that may have prohibitions that the modern church has relaxed. Maybe there could be a payment system to be able to buy indulgences for one time transgressions or on a limited basis. Not for the kiddies, obviously, just musing randomly.

      3. DS999 Silver badge

        If government wants to enforce it, they should provide the verification

        Since the government already has the info on your ID, providing you are who you say (or the age you say) to the government and having them handle the "is DS999 18 years old?" question doesn't give any additional information to Facebook et al. This could be done even without providing my real name, so I could age verify at The Register without them ever learning my name. They wouldn't even need my birthdate, just the fact that was 18 years or older at the time they verified my age.

        The US government has done what it too often does and outsourced this function to a private contractor, so we have "id.me" used to identify yourself to government agencies like the IRS. I don't know what sort of promises that company makes about not using that information in other ways, security of that information, etc. But I imagine the government holds them to SOME standards, which makes them by definition more trustworthy than Facebook or Twitter so I'd rather use id.me if I had to verify my age to Facebook than give them my actual ID. Since they already have my info by virtue of using them to access my tax records at the IRS, using them to verify my identity at other places doesn't create any further privacy risk (other than them knowing I'm a Facebook user if they verified age at Facebook, etc.)

        If Facebook ever required giving them information off my ID like my address and real birthdate I'd simply let my Facebook account slowly rot alongside my MySpace account.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: If government wants to enforce it, they should provide the verification

          > I don't know what sort of promises that company makes ...... But I imagine the government holds them to SOME standards,

          Hey do you need a bridge? I have one going cheap !

        2. ThatOne Silver badge

          Re: If government wants to enforce it, they should provide the verification

          > But I imagine the government holds them to SOME standards

          Yes, election money most likely... Do not fool yourself, the fact they got the contract doesn't mean they're any better than Facebook and al., it only says they managed to win the contract, period.

          Also, the system you describe is nice, but there is no profit in it. Quite on the contrary, it costs money! The money is in making sure juicy personal informations are handed around (and can be resold by you and your pals), so that's what will happen, as sure as death and taxes.

          (Didn't downvote you though.)

      4. WanderingHaggis

        Re: Why is age verification an invasion of privacy ?

        Real information can be abused and sold on -- true that is why GDPR exists. Our problem is enforcement of data protection so that some kind of ID may be used without fear of abuse in an unregulated global context. The valid credit card seems a good way (granted cards can be copied or cloned but it should reduce the number of children exposed and put power / responsibility into the parents hand to keep their information safe).

        The other issue freedom of speech is tricky -- Alex Jones and others demands freedom of speech with terrible results. Is this acceptable? How can we police the harm done by these people of bad faith?

        1. ThatOne Silver badge

          Re: Why is age verification an invasion of privacy ?

          > The valid credit card seems a good way

          Really? You'd trust any obscure website owner with your credit card details?

          As for being efficient, do you really think your children are too dumb to copy the numbers on it, and henceforth be able to enter any website they want? They usually live in the same house as their parents, it would be trivial for them to eventually get that information.

          A credit card proves nothing at all about the user: It's like saying the car owner's age guarantees the driver's age.

          (Didn't downvote you though.)

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Why is age verification an invasion of privacy ?

            "They usually live in the same house as their parents, it would be trivial for them to eventually get that information."

            The smarter kids will get the credit card numbers outside of their home. Will the verification process require the CCV code? Expiration date? Postal code for the billing address? Running the card doesn't return the age of the official holder and why would anybody want to give out all of the information necessary to make a charge just to verify age?

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Why is age verification an invasion of privacy ?

          "The valid credit card seems a good way"

          Buying credit card numbers on the dark web isn't all that expensive. I expect that once you've verified your age on your account, they aren't going to keep checking so the card number only has to stay valid long enough to pass the initial verification. I don't think they can do you for credit card fraud if you never attempt to make a charge.

    3. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: Why is age verification an invasion of privacy ?

      All the above use human visual face-to-face verification. For a computer to verify somebody, all it has to go on is the sole piece of data "I am 18+". There is *NO* other data to work on, *ALL* other supporting data boils down to a repetition of the single piece of data "I am 18+".

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: Why is age verification an invasion of privacy ?

        But the computer can't know the person behind the keyboard is 18+ unless somewhere it is given a copy of your ID and compares that to your face to verify that ID is your actual ID. That's what id.me does in the US, and they could provide that sort of authentication to online sites that need to verify your age (though I have never run into any using id.me for that purpose)

        Whatever one's feelings about a private company as the third party (I would rather have it be an actual government agency) verifier, having just one such verifier that has your actual information is way better than giving it to a bunch of sites if you needed to verify you were 18 in a lot of places (i.e. if UK law required it even for sites like The Register's comments section, on the fear we might say something too harsh for delicate young ears)

    4. unimaginative Bronze badge

      Re: Why is age verification an invasion of privacy ?

      If you want to buy alcohol, you need to adult.

      If you want to enter a night club, you need to be adult.

      In neither of those cases are any checks carried out if you look like an adult. Nor is it usual for records to be kept afterwards.

      In the third case it is only checked if the police want to see your driving license, which may or may not be for that reason.

      In the third case there is also a high risk that you will kill or seriously injure someonThese are all less intrusive. From someone's social media profile you can find out a lot about them, even things they do not state explicitly: political views, religion, sexuality, location. Its bad enough already.

      Some people have good reasons to want to say things anonymously.

    5. Inkey
      Big Brother

      Re: Why is age verification an invasion of privacy ?

      Pascal if you cant understand why the proposals for age veriffication and the required data retention of this proposal, are an afront to privacey then you lack the intellect to comment here and to have an opinion that counts.

      If you want to buy alcohol, you need to adult.

      If you want to enter a night club, you need to be adult.

      If you want to drive a car, you need to be adult....

      But they let any arshole be a perent

      Perhaps they should instate a law that one has to pass a certain level of perenting skill before having children ?...any less of an invasion of human rights?

      I'm not unsympathetic to the young woman and her familly who are mentioned in the article, and i think if they have been coerced into putting their names on this bill, then it's just as bad as the algorythems that they claim "pushed" the younster down that path... but i fail to see how creating in effect a stassie is going to stop kids getting online viewing porn, and stealing cars, getting high buying booze and cigerttes etc...

      The best way this could work is if perents had to click the agreement that They take full responabilty for the outcomes of their kids online lives just like they are legally obliged to as a duty of care for the other parts.

      I'm slightly miffed i can't downvote your conformist knee jerk comment more than once

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why is age verification an invasion of privacy ?

      This is the problem, though.

      Non-adults do obtain alcohol, they do get into pubs and clubs, they do drive cars, and so on. It's the 21st Century extension of a 'fake ID'.

      Tell kids there's something they aren't allowed to do, and that then goes right to the top of their list of things they're going to go and try to do. And for some of them, they have no trouble achieving it. These days, they will go to somewhat extreme lengths to get it (or even worse lengths to protest at not getting it if they are foiled).

      The bigger issue is that modern kids are the latest in line of a whole lineage of people who successively chipped away at right and wrong, and their standards now mean they have no issues with their own kids doing it, nor of reacting excessively if challenged.

    7. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Why is age verification an invasion of privacy ?

      "Now, I have no idea how this should happen, but I pretty much agree it should."

      I have what I think is a good way, but it's very rare and it's called "good parenting". A phone they give their kids can make calls, texts and access school resources, but naught else. The same goes for computers in children's rooms that are out of sight of the responsible adults that should be looking after them. As children get older, the things they can access becomes greater. Nobody "needs" social media. No child "needs" an InstaPintaTwitFace account. They might actually do better if they don't and instead have to form and maintain friendships in the real world. Saying mean things in the real world could lead instantly to a punch on the nose and that's an easy concept to get one's head around. Bullying online doesn't come with the same consequences or not with the same immediacy.

  4. PhilipN Silver badge

    “nudge them towards different content”

    Does anyone else find this ^ as creepy and repressive as I do?

    Different point, but it means the service (cough! cough!) provider knows some of its content may be undesirable. So why is it there? Or why allow access in the first place?

    1. Cederic Silver badge

      Re: “nudge them towards different content”

      There's a lot of material I access online that I wouldn't recommend for a 9 year old.

      All of it legal. Comparable material readily accessible in their local library. Which has a children's section too.

      Why shouldn't the internet have a children's section?

      1. Fred Dibnah

        Re: “nudge them towards different content”

        Although libraries usually have a children’s section, there’s nothing to stop children browsing the rest of the library (and a good thing too).

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: “nudge them towards different content”

          There will be. If it becomes impossible to prevent under 18s accessing unsuitable material (like the Java Programming Manual) we will have to get rid of the 'adult' books. If we burn them for warmth we can also solve the energy crisis

          1. Version 1.0 Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: “nudge them towards different content”

            When I was six years old my mum talked to the library manager and got me a set of "Adult" tickets which made me so happy, I could head home with a couple of Biggles books (I have read so many of W. E. Johns books), and some books about research into early telepathy testing and human evolution. And then I started reading about how to start drawing ... lots of books with illustrations of the naked human posture that showed how to draw accurately.

            So I believe that limiting children to little kiddy events and preventing them from seeing the adult environment has the potential to result in problems - as adults we think we're smart but actually (just look at current politics) we can be stupid too. It's best to teach kids that stupidity is normal but needs to be avoided.

          2. David 132 Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: “nudge them towards different content”

            > prevent under 18s accessing unsuitable material (like the Java Programming Manual)

            Not sure if that specific example makes your point, or undermines it. I'm not sure adults should go anywhere near Java, never mind children. If I found my (hypothetical) kid reading material about Java I'd a) wonder where I had gone wrong as a parent, and b) give the kid something less likely to corrupt and befoul an innocent mind. Like The Anarchist's Cookbook, or Fritz the Cat.

            "Java - Just Say No"

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: “nudge them towards different content”

              Precisely, it was the sort of mind warping filth we should keep from our children.

              I grew up reading Enid Blyton and Sven Hassel - but we didn't have internet back then so I'm normal

              1. WolfFan Silver badge

                Re: “nudge them towards different content”

                Ah. So you had British luck and pluck while you were in the 27th Penal Panzer Regiment, and trying to stay warm in the middle of the blitzfreeze, eh? Drang nach Oesten, with a Home Counties accent.

                1. David 132 Silver badge

                  Re: “nudge them towards different content”

                  With lashings of ginger beer!

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: “nudge them towards different content”

      Shouldn't it be creepier that social networks constantly nudge adults towards similar content? It's like the librarian reorganising the shelves while you're there based on your last book.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: “nudge them towards different content”

        > Shouldn't it be creepier that social networks constantly nudge adults towards similar content?

        I wouldn't really mind if it wasn't so totally off target. I mean, like everyone I'm usually happy when somebody tells me about something I might indeed be interested in, but the automatic "similar content" algorithm is usually so broken and ad-warped that its suggestions are grotesque and a total waste of space and time. Even an occasional good suggestion is bound to get overlooked, simply because I won't notice it.

    3. withQuietEyes

      Re: “nudge them towards different content”

      I have the same knee-jerk reaction, but on the other hand, we (I think) are talking about social media sites that spend the rest of their time "nudging" their users towards content that keeps them on the platform/makes them money. So it's still creepy, but it's an ongoing form of creepy - the new thing isn't the creepy bit. (Does that make any sense? I'm too jetlagged to be commenting.)

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Parents didn't check on their kid's browsing habits once in at least six months. Sorry, but social media rules are never going to be a substitute for parents.

    Now they want everyone to hand over identity information for age verification cause parents won't be parents.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Parents didn't check on their kid's browsing habits once in at least six months.

      In the sad case on which the coroner was ruling, the child had opened a second Instagram account, which she kept hidden from her parents, in order to search out material on self-harm and suicide. It was not a case of a happy child looking at pictures of gambolling bunnies, finding a reference to suicide and thinking "that looks like a good idea" - it was a deeply troubled child who felt unable (probably because of her depression) to approach her parents, teachers, doctor or anyone else for help. It's very hard to see what Facebook could have done differently which would have had much effect, given her sad determination.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Well, suicides existed before Internet, the problem here seems (AFAIK) to be that the parents missed or underestimated the emotional distress their child was in.

        I'm not saying that social media should allow people to find easy step-by-step instruction on taking life (theirs or somebody else's), I'm just saying that suicide isn't something you commit on a whim, it's something your family and friends should, most of the time, be able to detect and prevent. Note I'm not blaming the parents either, I don't know what really happened, nor how it happened. I'm just saying that blaming social media sounds a little too easy.

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "Now they want everyone to hand over identity information for age verification cause parents won't be parents."

      There should be real consequences for that. If parents aren't doing their job, the government can't/shouldn't step in and do it for them in the normal course of things. In the cases where the government does have to step in, the parents should have charges brought against them and convince a court they shouldn't be prevented from having any more. In a less extreme case, maybe there does need to be some requirements that the parents need to complete some courses to get them up to speed. If their child types circles around them on the computer and that use comes to the attention of law enforcement, perhaps the parents will need to spend some evenings each week learning the things they can do about it. The kids could still do things at their friend's homes, libraries and internet cafes, but being locked out of doing bad things at home early on might curtail the behavior.

      There needs to be some downside for parents that let their kids run amuck. If the parents are legally on the hook for the deeds of their kids to a certain age, maybe they'll take an interest. I think that JK may have had a good idea when she was writing about "St Brutus's Secure Centre for Incurably Criminal Boys". If parents are really unable to control their kids, they can petition to have them admitted as a way to keep themselves from being criminally charged.

  6. Winkypop Silver badge
    Devil

    As an adult….

    I wouldn’t touch social media with YOUR barge pole.

    1. chivo243 Silver badge

      Re: As an adult….

      I wouldn’t touch social media with YOUR barge pole.

      And neither should children. I've said no to Discord for my preteen gaming fan... But at what age are they no longer children? Tough call!

      1. Red Ted

        Re: As an adult….

        That's one of the many challenges of parenthood.

        My personal hope is that there'll be a transition through their teenage years (rather than an on/off at 18).

      2. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: As an adult….

        Discord, IF properly monitored by the parents can be fine. I don't know if it has parental controls (like locking which discord groups the sprog can join) but if it's just a limited group of classmates or friends it's probably easier to monitor their activities on that discord than it would be if they were hanging out somewhere IRL. It's only a cesspool if the groups the child is in is a cesspool, making it potentially less harmful (or more so, since peer groups amongst kids can be brutal) I understand the caution but Discord nowadays seems to be the digital equivalent of hanging out at the local playground for many kids, so preventing them from joining might make it more difficult for them to socialize with their peers.

        I see far fewer redeeming qualities, if any at all, in the majority of the other "social" media platforms.

        1. 桜沢墨

          Re: As an adult….

          As someone who has used discord, I can tell you firsthand that it is not like the local playground. A closer example would be if your kid who hangs out at the local playground accidentally stumbled into the corner of the high school where the theatre kids hang out. On discord there are a ton of fetish groups, and all the people who visit those leak out into every corner of every other group. It's also easy to attached to the people there, as most social media wants you to do. I had to pull myself away from my 'digital friends' because I was spending much more time with them than with real people. With lots of impressionable kids joining the platform since it's marketed toward gamers, you have many users who aren't prepared to handle what they read, like the common venting/sad channels where people will commonly talk about how they've wanted to kill themselves, or hate themselves, or their boyfriend pressures them to have sex when they don't want to, etc. In the terms of services you have to be 13 to enter, but there are tons of users who break that rule, and even when they abide by it, there are seldom barriers to stop them from reading heavy talk mentioned before.

          1. imanidiot Silver badge

            Re: As an adult….

            That is why I said "just a limited group of classmates and friends", preferably with one or more of the parents having an admin account, and a lock or other control on joining any other discord groups. Like I said I'm well aware of what a cesspool Discord groups CAN be but I'm also a member of a few that I would have absolutely no qualms about letting a youngling join. It's all about who is in the group and whether or not there is any moderation. I know for a fact many young people use Discord as a way of communicating and coordinating their social life amongst the friend/peer group. Usually it's a closed/private Discord group set up specifically for that purpose with only the kids who know each other in real life in it. They use it to set up meetings in real life to, organize homework groups and ask/discuss homework questions, agree on who brings what books to school, etc, etc. Being excluded from such a group could make it very hard for kids to keep up with what is happening and could easily get them excluded (either intentionally or accidentally: "oh I thought you knew we were having a party at Jimmy's, didn't you see the Discord")

            1. ThatOne Silver badge

              Re: As an adult….

              > That is why I said "just a limited group of classmates and friends"

              Won't work because the reason kids usually want to use Discord is to follow the (many) groups about some game they are playing, and those groups are neither fixed nor well-defined.

      3. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: As an adult….

        "But at what age are they no longer children? Tough call!"

        It's more of a maturity level than a particular age. For some that might be 18. For gamers, 21. I know a couple of people whose kids are big time gamers. Those kids are 'ing useless.

        I'm all for an evening of Gran Turismo with a friend of mine, and we are both well along, but not every night and not the exclusion of everything else.

  7. Khaptain Silver badge

    Be very careful what your children have access to

    There is a lot going currently being heavily promoted in the web that is bad for children but depending on one's particular ideology it is either deemed acceptable or not.

    Who gets to decide what is safe and what is not ?

    1. stiine Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Be very careful what your children have access to

      Me? Its all safe.

    2. Alumoi Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Be very careful what your children have access to

      The government, of course. Think of the children!

    3. Ian Johnston Silver badge

      Re: Be very careful what your children have access to

      Indeed. Dr TikTok has a lot to answer for.

    4. Evil Scot
      Childcatcher

      Just wave a magic wand

      and people who say "just talk to them" are wiped off social media.

      Oh yes and those children that need support can no longer access it because the councillors are being harassed.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re. Children should have separate sections in social media sites

    also, politicians. Obviously, not shared with children, or with anyone else.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You cannot abdicate your duty as a parent

    Whatever companies say, there are enough dodgy misfits out there (possible the result of bad parenting) that want to cause harm so:

    1 - keep an eye on what your kids get up to;

    2 - discuss this with your child. That way your kid learns early why you do things, which tends to cut down on a degree of rebellion. Your job as a parent is to protect them when they grow up (which is why child abuse is such a heinous crime, but I digress);

    3 - be realistic, eventually they WILL come across something dodgy or dangerous. Hopefully you have built up a good enough relation with your child to ensure they will feel confident in asking for help or even just information;

    4 - accept it still can go wrong. Plan for it.

    And whatever you do, do not trust companies to do the job for you (or to be without ulterior motives if they claim they do). Comapnies always seek profit without accountability.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Age verification is not viable

    The big issue is that: enter 'bad site'

    We need to verify your age:

    What year were your born ?

    A sizeable fraction of young children will enter a value. Some truthful others may lie. Either way bad things are possible. One child sees content that is disturbing and potentially damaging. The other the bad site owner now knows an important piece of information and potentially leads to grooming and that is what is often the very thing that age verification is attempting to block. Yes if found the "good people" can use the same issue to try to gather evidence but by then harm is likely already done.

    Age verification does not equate to a viable solution.

    1. David 132 Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Age verification is not viable

      I always liked the Leisure Suit Larry approach to age verification. Questions that only an adult would (probably) have the knowledge to answer.

      "Bourbon Street is in: d) New Orleans, Lousiana"

      "Which is not a cheese? c) Riesling"

      ...and so on.

      Of course, this wouldn't work now that Google is a thing that even babes in arms can use.

      Perhaps the solution to all of this is just to ban kids from search engines?

      1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

        Re: Age verification is not viable

        Perhaps the solution to all of this is just to ban kids from search engines?

        Hmm. You're saying that because it is impossible to use age verification to choose suitable answers, age verification should be used to prevent the questions being asked. I see a potential flaw in that.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Age verification is not viable

        "Of course, this wouldn't work now that Google is a thing that even babes in arms can use."

        If you don't have enough time to look up the answer, it can still work. There is a way to see if somebody puts the quiz page in the background so doing that would cancel the test. Fail a few times and your IP address should be banned for some time. Kids have shorter attention spans so putting them off for a few days or a week might lead to them losing interest.

    2. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: Age verification is not viable

      What you are talking about is not "verification". It isn't doing anything to verify you are telling the truth if you scroll all the way to the end of the "what year were you born" chooser and select 1900.

      Verification requires proof that it is true, which means somewhere it needs access to your ID and a photo of the person behind the keyboard to compare to verify that's your ID. Either directly submitted, or being able to contact a trusted third party that does that and provides them the "yes/no" answer to whether you are 18.

  11. Binraider Silver badge

    Over-18 attempting to access under-age area: enter sufficiently low DOB.

    And vice versa.

    Look, quango types. I get the intent, but the implementation requires a networking system with actual credential verification that can be trusted by users and authorities alike. And is not a darling obvious target for theft or misuse.

    Good luck finding a way of doing that on a global scale that users will actually accept, because it isn't happening.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Even if the age verification could be made to work - this is the wrong approach.

      If you are a company that markets to kids; Facebook/Youtube/tik-tok you will lobby and work around it.

      If you aren't then its safer to just ban under18s. Why would Nadella risk fines + jail time because some Mary Whitehouse type finds rude words on a github comment. Safer just to ban kids from github, Same for el'reg, or stackoverflow or any other professional tech site.

      They can learn all this computer stuff once they turn turn 18 and enter the workforce

      1. ThatOne Silver badge
        Joke

        > its safer to just ban under18s

        Yes, let's just eliminate anyone under the age of 18, and the problem is solved!

        Also (eventually) the unemployment problem, the overpopulation problem, heck, most modern problems would simply disappear. Definitely, too.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The phrase - Total Bollocks - comes to mind

    Teenagers suffering from depression etc were killing themselves back in the 1980's and 1970s'. Long before there was social media. For the same sorts of reasons and with pretty much the same frequency. Nothing new. Back then it was blamed on the "Permissive Society". Now its blamed on the InterWeb. So the deflection of blame is nothing new either.

    These tragedies start with the parents. One way or another. If you dig deep enough in to the back story. Often as simple as not paying enough attention, not been forcefully proactive enough, or by not being a parent by setting very strict boundaries when needed.

    Its the parents job to raise their kids. No one elses. Its the parents job to protect their kids. No one elses. If a parent can type a simple query into a search engine they can find out enough in a few minutes to lock down and control their kids internet access. And a parent can make it very clear to their children what is and is not acceptable. Yes, I have raise kids In an exceptionally wired and online home environment. Online in one form or other since the early 1990's. I knew exactly what they were exposed to. Both at home and elsewhere. And had very clearly defined limits as to what was acceptable. This was made clear to other children's parents too on occasion. Its easy to scare straight clueless parents by a quick tour of what is out there.

    So its just more of the "online regulation to save the kiddies" garbage. Just the same kind of mendacious BS we heard back in the 1970s' and 1980's. Its up to the parents to safeguard their kids in these situations. No one else. Yes it was a tragedy for the parents. They will never recover from what happened. But thats all it is. A private tragedy. Like so many others. Decade after decade. Passing more laws that strip us all of basic rights to privacy will do nothing to stop them. Nothing. But a few more parents doing a bit more proactive parenting most certainly would change the tragic outcome in many cases.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: The phrase - Total Bollocks - comes to mind

      But in 70s/80s it was because of that sinful pop music. If only we had put parental warning labels on records everyone would have been safe

      1. Khaptain Silver badge

        Re: The phrase - Total Bollocks - comes to mind

        And nowadays kids are being taught that they can change their body parts in order to solve their mental problems......

        In the next few years or so the shit will really start hitting the fan when all these now young adults start to understand that it was just a fad and that it is no longer trendy but that the results of their actions were not temporary.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: The phrase - Total Bollocks - comes to mind

          "In the next few years or so the shit will really start hitting the fan when all these now young adults start to understand that it was just a fad and that it is no longer trendy but that the results of their actions were not temporary."

          I'm not a fan of tatts and piercings for the same reasons. I was a roadie for many years but felt no inclination to do something that permanent. Blue mohawk? Sure. Natty clothes, not a problem, but I wasn't going to go all tribal and have earlobes 4" in diameter. Yuck. Instead of getting full sleeves, I own a home and the car is paid for.

  13. Trigun Silver badge

    Chiling effect

    'The bill, first drafted under former prime minister Theresa May in 2019, was revised this year to authorize imprisonment — up to two years — for anyone whose social media message could cause "psychological harm amounting to at least serious distress."'

    'A particularly controversial aspect of the original bill was its aim to curb what it calls "legal but harmful" expression by netizens.'

    How the heck does anyone not think that such a system:

    - will lead to a massive chilling efefct on free speech in the UK

    - be abused by the unscupulous to get the people that they don't like criminalised, possibly jailed

    With our current hate crime and non-crime legistaltion coupled with the above, you have a pefect ability to arrest and criminalise anyone for anything they say, usually based on how someone else feels.

    I think our politicians are living on another planet at this point - or just mailicious on a societal scale.

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: Chiling effect

      Our politicians know exactly what they're doing. It's all just more power and more control. Closet authoritarians that would love the ability to supress and stamp out any viewpoints they perceive to be negative toward themselves. They rely on the general public being too stupid, lazy and uninformed to realise or do anything about it.

  14. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    >- or just mailicious on a societal scale.

    I hope that wasn't intended to cause distress to the Prime of Ministers voter citizen ?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My way of tackling this

    "We're curious how Reg reader parents direct their children and teenagers in their internet use, and whether they use parental control apps, ban devices, or simply supply their kids with feature phones with no internet access. You can weigh in with your opinion in the comments below."

    Simple (daughter is now 23, to put this in context). Here goes:

    - kid times: one windows PC only, going through a squidguard with mandatory proxy auth -> no porn, no social network etc ...

    - first ipod was when she was 11 or something. Wifi was cut from 11pm to 7:00 am every week day. No other limitation. I had to enable WIFI with no hours limit during holidays, mind you, too much pressure :)

    - first smartphone at 14 and a half when she reached college. Very low mobile data (50 MB ?) per month

    - multiple GB of mobile data when she reached 16

    For sure, she's always been aware of "things", including the worst and what a VPN was for, back in here secondary school years. But yeah, as was already said, if the environment is severely toxic, then kids can and will have bad ideas, even terrible ones. Parents are here to prevent this ...

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: My way of tackling this

      "For sure, she's always been aware of "things", including the worst and what a VPN was for, back in here secondary school years. But yeah, as was already said, if the environment is severely toxic, then kids can and will have bad ideas, even terrible ones. Parents are here to prevent this ..."

      I lost my dad when I was 17 and can look back now and see the things he was teaching me could be classed as wisdom. Knowledge I got from school and university, but I wish I had more time with my dad to gain more of his wisdom as he dispensed it when it was most appropriate. He wasn't bogging me down with relationship advice/hints before I was dating. He didn't bombard me with how to be on the look out for idiots on the road until I was driving. He waited until I could really appreciate what he was telling me.

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