Schillings Lead T&Cs Assessment For Children's Commissioner

06 January 2017

Research carried out by Schillings on behalf of the Children's Commissioner for England has revealed that the terms and conditions found on most social media sites would currently require a child or young person to have a post-graduate degree in order to make sense of them. 

As part of a new report into children and the digital age entitled: Growing Up Digital, Schillings recommended and agreed to translate the terms and conditions of a popular children's social media site in a way that children and young people could understand them. 

What started out as a 17 page document containing over 5,000 words was subsequently reduced to a page of A4; highlighting that existing legal contracts between social media sites and their target audience are not currently fit for purpose.

When Schillings' rewritten terms and conditions were shown to a panel of children and young people, many were shocked at what they had unwittingly signed up to and given away. One respondent commented: "When it was put that way as opposed to being bogged down in technicalities, it made me realise just how much of my personal data I am giving to a random company without realising. They are also free to give this information to third parties, and this is all something I have agreed to just by agreeing to the terms and conditions".

Speaking at the launch of the Commissioner's report, Jenny Afia, Partner at Schillings and part of the Children's Commissioner Task Force on Children and the Internet commented: "Even experienced lawyers can struggle to understand websites’ terms and conditions. So what hope do young people have? Social media providers need to ask themselves: how can someone give informed consent to something they can’t possibly understand? 

"The situation is serious. Young people are unwittingly giving away personal information, with no real understanding of who is holding that information, where they are holding it and what they are going to do with it".

The Children's Commissioner is now calling on social media providers to create a straightforward model that not only provides greater clarity, but which includes new terms and conditions that offer greater privacy and data protection choices for users and in particular, children and young people.

For additional insights on Schillings' research and the Children's Commissioners Growing Up Digital report, please click here.

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