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Special Considerations for Minors

Children and teens spend a great deal of time online and may not know or understand how their actions can put personal information at risk. These risks are most likely to occur when minors use social media or online chat (e.g., when playing games). 

Key Topics

Helping minors protect their identity

To help protect minors online, it is important to provide guidelines designed to warn them of the dangers of talking to strangers on the internet and sharing personal information through online channels. The library may employ various filters to prevent children from accessing certain types of content, but these filters are limited in their scope.

Social media and privacy

Minors on social media are especially at risk to being targeted by predators. Library staff can help minors protect themselves  on social media by assisting them with  the privacy settings on their accounts. 

Recommended Actions

Consult the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) for guidelines on protecting minors online.

Consult the Children’s on Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) website for Frequently Asked Questions on complying with COPPA.  

Make sure policy language can be understood by minors (no technical language or jargon).

Encourage parents and minors to learn more about online safety by sharing links to existing resources. Some examples include:

Examples of Library Policy

New York Public Library’s guidelines for minors:

  • “Never give out identifying information such as home address, school name, or telephone number.
  • Let parents or guardians decide whether personal information such as age, marital status, or financial information should be revealed.
  • Never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone via the computer without parents’ or guardians’ approval.
  • Never respond to messages that are suggestive, obscene, threatening, or make one uncomfortable.
  • Have parents or guardians report an incident to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678 if one becomes aware of the transmission of child pornography.
  • Remember that people online may not be who they say they are.
  • Remember that everything one reads may not be true.”

“All computers in the designated children’s area are only for use by children age 12 and younger and for parents or caregivers assisting children.” –DC Public Library

“The San Antonio Public Library’s goal is for children to have safe online experiences and prevent their exposure to harmful or inappropriate material. Library Board Policy on Public Use of the Internet San Antonio Public Library. Towards this goal, the San Antonio Public Library has taken the following initiatives: 

  • Filtering Internet access for images and videos containing adult content that would generally be considered obscene or pornographic in nature. 
  • Encouraging parents to monitor and supervise their own children’s use of the Library’s computers and networks.
  • Providing specially designed web pages for children and teens. 
  • Providing child-friendly search engines on the children’s page. 
  • Providing links to sites that help children learn Internet safety. 
  • Providing staff who are trained to help children and parents find appropriate sites. 
  • Enforcement of this policy.” 

“The Library provides Web pages, links, databases, and other online resources to guide young users to useful, interesting, educational, appropriate, and fun sites selected by Library staff. Whenever possible, Library staff members assist young customers in locating and choosing appropriate and useful Internet resources, and guide young customers away from inappropriate sites. Library policy gives parents or guardians the right and responsibility to restrict their children’s and only their own children’s use of Library resources, including computers and the Internet. The Library respects the right of parents to determine what it is appropriate for their children to read, hear, and view, but the Library cannot enforce these rules, which may be different for each family in our community. Parents are encouraged to supervise and to participate actively in their children’s computer and Internet use. The Library does not act in loco parentis: It does not have the same role in supervising children that schools have, and it cannot substitute its judgment for that of parents or enforce parents’ decisions about their children’s Internet use.” –Monterey Public Library (California)

“The Library strongly encourages parents or legal guardians to supervise their children’s Internet use and to provide them with guidelines about acceptable use. It is the responsibility of parents and/or guardians to instruct their children not to give private information about themselves or others, when using web sites or e-mail.” –Dormont Public Library (Pennsylvania)

“Parents, guardians, and caregivers are expected to instruct minors to safely share personal information (name, address, password, telephone number, school, credit card number, etc.) on the Internet. This includes but is not limited to email, instant messaging, online purchasing, social media sites, and commercial sites. Before giving out any personal information via email, minors need to be confident that they are dealing with someone who is known and trusted by them and their parents or guardians.” –Madison Public Library (Wisconsin)