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Posted on Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 2:38 p.m.

New U-M survey poses question: How old should children be to use the Internet alone?

By Amy Biolchini

A recent survey conducted by the University of Michigan shows that most adults think children should be at least 13 before being online alone and support expanding federal laws regarding children’s safety when browsing the Internet, according to results released Monday.

About two-thirds of adults surveyed also said children should be at least 13 years old to be able to use the Internet without supervision, according to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health.

However, 29 percent of the parents surveyed with children between the ages of 9 and 12 years old said their children have devices with Wi-Fi enabled, meaning many children could be online and unsupervised.

About 18 percent of those parents also said their children have their own social networking profile. Facebook restricts access to users under the age of 13.

Adults surveyed strongly supported updates to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which was written in 1998 before Facebook and Twitter existed. The Federal Trade Commission is considering updating COPPA.

The U-M poll also found that most adults that were surveyed strongly supported websites requiring users to confirm that they are at least 13 years old, and for cellphone service providers and smartphone application developers to comply with COPPA regulations for children under the age of 13.

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.



Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 11:30 a.m.

Parents need to put computers in areas where the child can be supervised and enable settings to reduce the risk.

Steven Murphy

Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 8:12 a.m.

If I was a little kid and could have access to all the porn I wanted via a computer, I would move heaven and earth to figure out a way to get to the stuff. The way I see it, computers are essentially devices of satan to create massive amounts of sin via sexual immorality, thus widening the gulf between God and humanity. Strange that the dude didn't mention a word about porn.


Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 11:32 a.m.

You all seem mighty godly and you brought up the sinnin' and porn. From the mouth of babes here or are you just self prophet-izing?


Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 5:44 a.m.

I remember being allowed on the net when I was 13 pretty much unsupervised because I don't think my parents even thought about online predators and all that. I was just looking up anime and using e-mail with my friends. You can block sites and restrict computer use which should make it safer for children now. I think once they hit high school age you can give them more of a free reign. If you are really paranoid you can check their browser history/chat history. I wasn't allowed to use AOL and I didn't. Wow, I feel old now.

Linda Peck

Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 9:41 p.m.

Solipsist, I also answered "never."

Ron Granger

Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 8:42 p.m.

Related survey you won't see: "How old should children be to use the University of Michigan Health System alone?"


Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 9:15 p.m.

I think Obama Care can keep kids on their parents insurance policy until the age of 26. That sounds about right to me.


Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 8:09 p.m.

I got into a lot of trouble on the internet back in the days of AOL as I was growing up. I remember dozens of grown men who were very interested in talking to me and meeting me, a 12 to 15 year old girl at the time. Thankfully I never met any of these psychos, but I was stupid enough to meet a handful of people I met online. I remember there was no concern about what might happen to me - it was an exciting break from a mundane life in the country. As an adult and mother of my own daughter now, my mind-frame as a young teen is what scares me. I've always felt that my daughter being online would be putting her at risk of predators who are more numerous than even the most paranoid people suspect and I still feel this way. However, there is immense outside pressure to get her online and teach her how to get around in cyberspace. Her school assigns most of its homework on various websites, and one teacher has a Facebook page set up for his class in which he gives extra credit opportunities. My daughter is definitely not getting on Facebook anytime soon, but I feel my right to choose when she should be introduced to the internet was taken away from me. I only hope that she actually listens when I teach her about the dangers, but I know that I did not take my parents seriously when they tried to talk to me. She is only 8 years old. I voted never.

Jeff Brown

Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 1:56 a.m.

You're kidding, the teacher is encouraging 8 year olds to be on Facebook?? That is very inappropriate. I think I'd be making a call to the school.