The Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) today released a new report, Making Sense of Age Assurance: Enabling Safer Online Experiences, which explores awareness and attitudes toward age assurance among parents and children in the United States, United Kingdom, and France.
Age assurance ensures that users who do not meet age minimums cannot access online platforms, or must stay in age-appropriate environments. This new report found that age assurance methods are received with mixed perceptions, with respondents showing an openness to future solutions but also highlighting the need for education and transparency upon implementation. Key findings from the report captured levels of awareness among parents and children, outlooks on the use of biometric data, and cultural contrasts in parenting style.
“Age assurance has long been a challenging area for the technology industry, as certain methods may also require the collection of more user data,” said Stephen Balkam, FOSI CEO. “This year’s report shows a clear opportunity to improve methods of age assurance, which must begin by helping people to understand it. This means providing clarity around the purpose of assuring age, how the process works, and how they benefit.”
“At Google, we are committed to creating age-appropriate experiences to help kids and teens use technology in a safer and more privacy-protective environment,” said Markham Erickson, Vice President, Government Affairs & Public Policy, Google. “This research highlights the complexities associated with establishing the age of users and the importance of including the perspectives of both parents and their children in the discussion. We are proud to partner with FOSI on this critical work and will continue to collaborate on how to help kids and teens enjoy the benefits that technology has to offer when it comes to learning, staying connected and having fun.”
Parents and responsibility
Despite growing concerns about younger children accessing platforms while underage, this study found that most parents (53% in the US, 57% in the UK, and 49% in France) are willing to make an exception or allow their child to bypass an age requirement, though they then often require direct oversight of the account or discussions about how to use an app safely.
While the majority of parents (74% in the US, 80% in the UK, and 73% in France) see themselves as the primarily responsible party for ensuring that their children interact with age-appropriate content, more than half of parents in each country surveyed agree that industry and government should both be more involved in protecting children.
Despite hypotheses that the use of biometric components may cause concerns around data privacy, this report found that respondents are open to age assurance methods that include it.
Over two-thirds of parents and children in the US and UK, and roughly half in France, indicate that they are open to age assurance methods that include a biometric component. Nearly two-thirds of parents across all three countries feel that biometrics are an effective tool for assessing age.
If offered, parents report that their most ideal method for setting age assurance on apps and services would be on a per account basis, the point at which they are downloaded from an app store.
The report also finds that different social and cultural factors impact parenting styles and child-parent relationships in each country.
US parents reported the highest amount of time spent monitoring their children’s online usage at 11.8 hours per week, in contrast with UK parents at 7.6 hours per week, and French parents at 3.5 hours per week.
French parents are also the least likely to use tech tools such as monitoring software or apps to oversee their children’s online activities. 87% of US parents and 82% of UK parents have used such tools, compared to 65% in France.
This study was supported by Google, and conducted by Kantar. Topline findings will be presented at the FOSI 2022 Annual Conference, Trust and Assurance: Online Safety in an Uncertain World.
The Family Online Safety Institute is an international, non-profit organization that works to make the online world safer for kids and their families. FOSI convenes leaders in industry, government and the non-profit sectors to collaborate and innovate new solutions and policies in the field of online safety. Through research, resources, events and special projects, FOSI promotes a culture of responsibility online and encourages a sense of digital citizenship for all. FOSI's membership includes many of the leading Internet and telecommunications companies around the world.
Curley Company for the Family Online Safety Institute