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Putting children's writing, names and ages online

But not location, and not requiring registration



3:02 pm on Feb 3, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I'd like to be able to solicit and publish online articles and stories from children under the age of 13. However, I know there may be some legal issues involved. Here's what I want to be able to do:

Accept a child's article or story by e-mail, submitted via an online form. I would gather:

  • First and last name,
  • Age,
  • Full address,
  • E-mail address,
  • Name(s) of parent(s)

Assuming I wanted to publish the piece online, here's what would appear on my site:

  • Child's first and last name,
  • Age
  • Article or story

Given that parental consent will be required before the child ever submits something, and that no information except the child's name and age will appear on my site, what are some guidelines I should follow? Or, where can I get some more (understandable) information?




4:07 pm on Feb 3, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member txbakers is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

EEK! That's a very, very touchy one.

I have two kids under 13, who use the internet. My little one likes barbie.com and bratz. My older one visits lego and bionicle and a few sites his friends have recommended.

Since dad is a web geek and knows most of the nastiness out there, we have talked about what you can and can't give out.

One thing I've stressed over and over and over and over again is:
1) NEVER EVER use your real name on anything.
2) NEVER EVER give even a HINT of your location to anyone.
3) NEVER EVER fill out a form that asks for address or telephone without asking me first.
4) NEVER EVER upload a picture of yourself.

Now a story site for under 13 is a good idea and might be appreciated by educators, etc. But I would NEVER give my child's name, address, phone to a site like this. If the site asked for it as a requirement I would run the other direction.


4:32 pm on Feb 3, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Yes, I suppose I see your point. Not having any children myself, I imagine I can't fully understand the concerns of a parent until they're explained to me.

With that said, our company produces a bi-monthly print magazine to our niche audience, and we're very communicative with our readers and website visitors. Our readers trust us and our standards, and due to the nature of our business, integrity and accountibility are built right in. I don't see how we can add this story feature without getting parent's names and addresses for verification purposes; in our audience, 13 year old students routinely write essays, stories and articles that are indiscernable from those of many adults and we want to make sure this is a "kids only" feature.

My main question is, are there any legal issues I need to beware of? What if I required a signed, hard-copy "permission slip" from parents before a child's work could appear on our site? Or what if we required all submissions to be sent via snail-mail?

I'm interested in the legal aspects of this, as well as the concerns parents are likely to have. Our audience will appreciate this feature if we can implement it, but we need to implement it safely.

Does COPPA apply here?




4:38 pm on Feb 3, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member txbakers is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

As I said, I think it's a great idea. Think Highlights magazine.

For legal issues, you know the drill - contact a lawyer.

Snail-mail would be a good option, as would verification with an existing account number rather than submitting name and address.

With kids you have to be very careful.


1:59 am on Feb 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Does COPPA apply here?

YES! According to the FTC, COPPA rules apply ANYTIME you are knowingly collecting information from children under the age of 13, regardless if you post that information online or not.

The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act and Rule apply to individually identifiable information about a child that is collected online, such as full name, home address, email address, telephone number or any other information that would allow someone to identify or contact the child. The Act and Rule also cover other types of information -- for example, hobbies, interests and information collected through cookies or other types of tracking mechanisms -- when they are tied to individually identifiable information.

You are also required to have a privacy policy on your site that specifically spells out what you intend to do with this information, what's being collected and how, who is receiving it, whether it's disclosed to 3rd parties, and how parents can review and delete any informaiton they do not want included for their child. You'll also need some sort of mechanism for parents to approve their child's information before it's collected.

Very messy indeed!

You can read a lot more about these COPPA rules on the FTC website at h**p://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/buspubs/coppa.htm


7:30 am on Feb 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Does COPPA apply here?

Not necessarily. You don't say where you live, but since COPPA was a US law, it will only apply if you live in the US. Here in the UK, there are no specific laws to what website owners can put on their website regarding children of any age.

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