The Children’s Code contains 15 standards that online services need to follow. This ensures they are complying with the obligations under data protection law to protect children’s data online.
- The Children’s Code is also known as the Age-Appropriate Design Code
- The code applies to “information society services likely to be accessed by children”, including apps, programs, search engines, social media platforms, online messaging, online marketplaces, content streaming services, online games, news or educational websites, and any websites offering other goods or services to users over the internet.
- The code applies to all UK and non-UK companies who process the personal data of UK children and came into force in September 2021. It covers not-for-profit apps, games, and educational sites, including educational apps and schools.
- To conform with the code, you should: map what personal data you collect from UK children. Check the age of the people who visit your website, download your app or play your game. Switch off geolocation services that track where in the world your visitors are. Do not use nudge techniques to encourage children to provide more personal data. Provide a high level of privacy by default.
- All information regarding privacy and data must be made available in clear language that children can understand. The code also requires services to only collect data that is strictly necessary for the running of the site.
- Companies can decide on the best way to meet the standards, so long as any restructuring considers the best interests of the child and offers appropriate safeguards for children’s personal data. Some companies may simply block anyone under the age of 18 from accessing their site or require them to verify their age, while others may apply the standards of the code to all users not verified as adults.
- Companies who do not conform to the code could be fined under GDPR legislation. Parents and children can complain to the service if they feel a platform, game or app is not meeting the 15 standards. If they are not happy with the response to the complaint, they can then seek help from the Information Commissioners Office (ICO).
- The code is designed to provide better data privacy and protection for children, in a way that could benefit everyone who uses the internet. Many aspects will put parents’ minds at ease – such as location settings being ‘off’ by default and reducing the ability for children to be contacted by adults they don’t know. Giving children more information and control over their privacy may help them to develop their digital resilience. However, some online services may start restricting access to sites or platforms where there is a minimum age for use (e.g. social media sites). This could result in younger children losing access to some sites or games that they enjoy using.
- Children and parents may be asked to provide ID to verify their age. This could result in additional data being collected from children, although the ICO has been clear that services need to comply with data protection obligations for the collection and retention of personal data, and only collect the minimum data needed to verify age. This data should not be re-used for other purposes.
- The Children’s Code is the first statutory code of practice for children’s data anywhere in the world.
For more information click here.
For an explanation of the Code in a child-friendly format, click here.