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Parents' Guide to Protecting Kids' Privacy Online

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Are companies allowed to use an agreement accepted by someone underage?

It depends. According the Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA), companies can't collect information on kids under 13 -- without a parent's consent. And there's the rub. Online, it's easy to pretend you're the parent and fake consent or avoid that step altogether by faking your birthdate.

Here's the way it's supposed to work: Your 11-year-old signs up for, say, an online game network using his real age. The sign-up form asks him to provide parental consent, usually in the form of your email address. You get an email asking for your approval while your obedient child patiently waits.

But a few things can go awry. Your kid could intercept that email. Or, he can sign up with a false birthdate -- in which case he won't need your consent at all.

Either way, the company is none the wiser. But companies don't want to violate COPPA. If you find out your kid signed up for something under false pretenses, contact the company to get your kid off their list. — Common Sense Media

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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