It is clear that a social media site is the equivalent of a congested city, where anyone from prison inmates to social predators can lurk. Add in the schoolyard bullies and budding sociopaths and the encounters that a child can have ranged from traumatic to downright deadly.
But the specific age groups that would corral people into particular levels and areas of access would have to be determined by some factors, such as grade in school, age within a range of years and other factors, such as the parent’s or guardian’s determination.
These sites are more than capable of setting up filters that compartmentalize the age groups. It would not be challenging to have age group segregated segments of Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites, then to read the computer’s identity and registration information in the same way that spammers and others computers stay banned when the owner violates the terms of understanding.
At a very simplistic level: It seems that the sites could efficiently use algorithms, security certificates and those same intrusive cookies that give information to anyone who buys it to determine the user’s age or grade level in school (one of the first things that children identify with). Advertisers and others can buy data from profiles or other areas. Thus, it should not be difficult to set up blocks to the general site and to put children with children and with their families only.
The sites could efficiently use the same intrusive technology to determine if certain statements that predators make are showing up in age-specific areas and track the individual who is making them. The sites could use the same intrusive technology to easily determine if a child is using a public or other computer to log in or register as an adult for an unsupervised session.
The bottom line is that there is the software, hardware, and technology for identifying when a child is online or has logged into a social networking site. There is technology for identifying the age group and for directing the child to the appropriate areas of the site while blocking problematic or adult areas.
But until these technologies become less advertiser-centric and are set free for the blanketed protection and separation of the various age groups, there will be no way to rely upon every parent or guardian to keep control over where their children go and what their children do online.
There is not a lot that a parent or guardian can do to label every problematic site on the web. Parents cannot ensure that their kids will not use a friend’s computer for unsupervised browsing. There is almost nothing that can be done until the social networking sites stop slacking off on creating more child-only areas and start putting more tools in the tool chest for parents to work with.
As long as a significant majority of parents and guardians keep saying that “there is nothing we can do,” then there will be no way to establish age limits for any type access to the web.
When people either begin to demand more tools and resources or when parents indicate that they will pull the plug on all access or membership in social networking sites, then something will happen.