Govt urged to extend online safety to include all teens

AN ONLINE safety advocacy group is urging Government to extend cyber spying laws to include all teenagers under 18 to stop targeted advertising and data harvesting of Australian children.

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Reset Australia said proposed privacy laws must stop teenage data snooping.

The organisation is advocating for a data code for children as part of the Federal Government’s privacy review.

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It believes such a code would see social media giants and technology companies compelled to be designed with the interests of children and teenagers in mind.

Reset Austraialia said this would include greater controls for young people and limit targeted commercial advertising.

Executive Director Chris Cooper said social media was never designed to factor in child protection.

“We need some ground rules to protect how young people’s data is collected and used, especially given we don’t know the long-term ramifications of unchecked data harvesting,” he said.

“While we can look to the US’s lead, we should also closely look at what other countries have already implemented, such as the UK’s Age Appropriate Design Code, and Ireland’s proposed Fundamentals for a Child-Oriented Approach to Data Processing.”

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Reset Australia understands Australia is considering following the US which requires parental consent before cyber giants can collect personal information in children under 13-years.

“We know that Big Tech treats children’s data in the same way as adults,” said Mr Cooper.

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“So, we need to extend protections to all kids and teens, not just those under 13.”

In a recent experiment, Reset Australia said it found some teenagers were targeted by advertisers – including those promoting smoking, gambling, alcohol, extreme weight loss and dating status.

“The highly targeted nature of this advertising is different to incidental viewing of advertising. A school bus with a beer ad on the side of it can’t pick a kid interested in underage drinking and then follow them throughout their day. But a targeted, granular ad will be in their phone, monitoring their activities and ready to target them every time they use social media,” Mr Cooper explained.

“If we want to stop our children’s vulnerabilities being exploited, we need to tackle the root of the problem – unchecked data harvesting. We need to compel these platforms to design their services with the interests of children at the core.”

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Are you concerned about your child’s safety online? If so, how do you monitor their social media use? Let us know in the comments below.

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