The Internet has provided people with unlimited access to information, but such a convenience also has a negative side. The use of materials available on the Internet, whether intended or unintended, can be harmful to children. Young users can be exposed to unpleasant or violent images or videos, and they can also become victims of cyberbullying. To protect children from inappropriate and offensive materials found on the Internet, COPPA and CIPA were introduced. While both acts have reasonable aims, they also contain some challenging elements, which makes it difficult to comply with them.
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The Main Compliance Requirements for COPPA and CIPA
CIPA has similar regulations, but it is focused on schools and libraries that have access to the Internet (“Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) [CIPA],” 2017). To comply with CIPA, libraries and schools are expected to limit children’s access to inappropriate online materials and provide security and safety to youngsters while they are using chat rooms and emails (“CIPA,” 2017). Thus, both acts demand that children’s private information be protected and the possibility of viewing harmful content be restricted.
Similarities and Differences
While COPPA and CIPA have almost identical compliance requirements and some common features, the two acts are not the same. Both CIPA and COPPA were enacted in 2000 (“CIPA,” 2017; “How to comply with COPPA,” n.d.). Another major similarity is in the purpose of the two acts: they both aim at protecting children from inappropriate and violent online content. However, there is a difference in the acts’ definition of a minor. COPPA applies to children under thirteen (“How to comply with COPPA,” n.d.). Meanwhile, under CIPA, a minor is “anyone under the age of 17” (Grama, 2015, p. 131). The need for two different acts appears due to their controlling separate spheres of Internet use: COPPA deals with commercial websites while CIPA manages schools and libraries.
One more divergent feature between the two acts is that they are governed by different commissions. COPPA is regulated by the FTC, and CIPA – by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The roles of the FTC include investigating complaints of websites which violate COPPA and imposing penalties for violations (Grama, 2015). Apart from that, the FTC offers a variety of tools helping website administrators to comply with the regulations. In its turn, the FCC regulates CIPA’s work and instructs schools and libraries on the act’s correct implementation. Thus, while the acts may seem very similar, there exist divergences which necessitate the existence of two different sets of regulations.
The Most Challenging Elements for Compliance
COPPA and CIPA pursue important goals, but their requirements are not easy for website and online services administrators to implement. Probably the most challenging aspect of complying with COPPA is the use of false data by children, particularly not being honest about their age. Since there is no opportunity to verify a user’s age, many minors deceive the system and obtain access to pornographic websites or other content that is not recommended for them.
In case of CIPA regulations, the problem is in the need for schools and libraries to hire additional personnel. CIPA requires the use of the technology protection measure (TPM) (Grama, 2015). This tool helps to filter the “objectionable” and visual content (Grama, 2015, p. 132). For successful installation and use of the TPM, libraries and schools need to hire people who could be responsible for these duties. Thus, compliance with CIPA may impose a financial burden on these institutions. Therefore, along with numerous benefits, both CIPA and COPPA impose some challenges on users.
The Protection of Different Ages
The reason why COPPA and CIPA protect different ages is that they focus on dissimilar objects of protection. COPPA deals with younger children because its major aim is to defend minors’ privacy and keep their personal data unavailable to dangerous websites and people (“How to comply with COPPA,” n.d.). Meanwhile, CIPA aims at restricting youngsters’ access to pornographic and violent materials (“CIPA,” 2017). Thus, a minor under COPPA is under the age of thirteen while the same definition under CIPA includes children under the age of seventeen.
Opposition to COPPA and CIPA and the Likelihood of Their Being Changed
Many parents, teachers, and public activists disagree with COPPA and CIPA regulations and express their opposition to the acts. Almost right after CIPA’s introduction, the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Library Association sued the U.S. government. The organizations argued that CIPA violated the right to free speech (Grama, 2015). In particular, it was mentioned that minors were deprived of access to information on crucial subjects, such as breast cancer (Grama, 2015). Such restrictions led to people’s dissatisfaction with CIPA and COPPA.
Another negative aspect that raises opposition to COPPA and CIPA is the impossibility of controlling children in places other than home or a school library. For instance, as Schaffhauser (2017) remarks, teachers may use some materials which parents might deem inappropriate for their children. Thus, there are two kinds of opposition regarding CIPA and COPPA. The first one is focused on too many restrictions and the limitation of freedom.
The second one aims at spreading the regulations of COPPA and CIPA to more spheres of children’s communication and activity. Both aspects are crucial, and if more efforts are made to prove that CIPA restricts users’ freedom, it is highly likely that the acts will be altered. Indeed, too many restrictions may lead to children’s decision to obtain information from other sources, such as communicating with adults whose intentions may be much more harmful than using the Internet from home.
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) were developed with the purpose of safeguarding children from unpleasant, violent, or inappropriate online content. While both acts have a similar general goal, they have some specific features making them different. The age of children under each law and the sphere of acts’ influence are the main dissimilarities between CIPA and COPPA. Although protection acts benefit minors to a great extent, they also limit their freedom. Thus, it is necessary to revise the acts in order to meet the expectations of the majority and reach the best outcomes for children.
Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). (2017). Web.
Grama, J. L. (2015). Legal issues in information security (2nd ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
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How to comply with Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. (n.d.). Web.
Schaffhauser, D. (2017). The problems with FERPA and COPPA in 21st century learning. The Journal. Web.