Child-friendly Facebook T&Cs

The children’s commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, has produced ‘child-friendly’ plain English versions of Facebook’s terms and conditions.

We’ve often highlighted the need to simplify online terms and conditions on platforms such as Instagram and YouTube. Many users of those sites probably still don’t realize how their images and footage might be used once posted online.

Millions of children use Facebook, including around half of all 12-year-olds, according to Ofcom figures. (Facebook’s mimimum age restriction is 13.) But few if any understand the potential implications of posting their personal details and often revealing images online. Longfield is keen for that to change.

“Children have the right to know what they are signing up to, in clear, simple, easy to understand language so that they can make the most of the fantastic opportunities social media and the internet can bring,” she said.

Longfield stressed that the new, clearer versions of the terms and conditions “aren’t a legal document but are designed to be an accessible, child-friendly tool to help children understand their digital rights and make informed choices.”

One of those choices might be to not post certain images or videos. When you create a Facebook account, and as Anne Longfield’s terms and conditions makes crystal clear, you agree that Facebook can do with them as they wish. Which could mean said images and videos are sold to third-party companies. How many children – or their parents – had any idea this was the case?

As John Carr, a government adviser on internet child safety, said: “This makes it clear that if you are not paying for a service then you are the product.”

Anne Longfield has urged Mark Zuckerberg to adopt her plain English guide alongside the existing terms and conditions. Facebook responded with: “We are working with online safety experts to make sure young people know what they need to think about before sharing online.”

Longfield will soon publish similar documents, drawn up by law firm Schillings, for Instagram, WhatsApp, Snapchat and YouTube users. The results will be made widely available to schools through Tes Resources.

Whether or not this overdue and revealing guide prompts changes to user habits, said users will now have a far better chance of knowing what they’re letting themselves in for. 

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