Facebook Age Restriction and Safe Guarding - Compensation Claims

A father recently sued Facebook for failing to enforce its age restriction policy after his 11 year old daughter was found to have been exposed to online sexual predators. It is understood that Facebook settled out of court after a 4 year legal battle where the Claimant’s solicitor’s claimed Facebook had a 'duty of care' towards the girl and was 'negligent' because it has no system in place to stop users from misrepresenting their ages. The girl created several accounts to come into contact with older men, posting sexual pictures of herself. The social networking site took down the accounts after her father brought it to their attention. The court claimed 'By registering an account and using Facebook the child might be exposing herself to sexual predators or other grave risks affecting her emotional and physical health.' and added, ‘Facebook are obviously aware that children who should not be using Facebook are doing so by using the simple device of misrepresenting their age.’ On the website help pages it informs users to notify the site’s administrators if they come across any users that are under age. But the Claimant’s solicitors pointed out that they believed the way that Facebook is used now, it is unsuitable for those under 18 years of age, yet they cannot even keep control of their self-imposed 13 year age restriction. Facebook have said: 'People have to be 13 to sign up to Facebook. When we become aware that someone is under 13 and they have therefore lied about their age, we remove their account. There are some shocking statistics with regard to young users on the network. In 2011 it was claimed that 7.5 million users were under the minimum age of 13. This had then risen by approximately 10 million in the next 18 months. In 2012 research suggested that 38% of children on Facebook were under the minimum age of 13 and that staggeringly, 4% of children were 6 or younger. A recent survey carried out by website knowthenet.com revealed that 52% of 8 to 16-year-olds admitted ignoring Facebook's age policy when signing up. By the age of ten, 59% of children have used a social networking site, the survey found. The site boasts the most users of any of the social media interfaces and recently saw 1 billion individual users in a single day. With 94% of teenagers using Facebook, this new court case has brought about further criticism of the site’s handling of young people on the site. Advice for parents is to ensure that even if your child is 13 or over, to monitor the child’s access, enter their own restrictions and safeguard the child by entering their own security on the site, until a time that they feel the child can use the site appropriately with sufficient knowledge of the risk. Parents are advised to not let their children have an account under the age of 13, as the majority of the time the child has used a parent’s email address or details to beat the age and security restrictions. Those who fear that their child is at risk, should take action immediately and contact Facebook to shut the page down, or do it themselves as well as contacting the police if there is evidence of contact from sexual predators. In terms of legislation going forward and the effect on the legal world, Charles Derham comments that “this is a landmark case pleading negligence in safeguarding’ as he understands ‘Facebook owe a duty of care to any individual using the site, which supersedes the fact that the individual had broken the rules and restrictions of the site to gain access.’ It is argued that as well as monitoring the age restrictions and closing the accounts of those under 13, they should also be sufficiently monitoring those contacting children under 16 who are above the age restriction. If there is continuous contact by a ‘stranger’ or an individual significantly older than the user, there should be security imposed to monitor contact and block users until the threat, if any can be identified.

Charles has considerable specialist experience in pursuing claims for compensation for those who have been abused in childhood. His specific expertise means that he is recognised locally, nationally and internationally for his work which has taken him all over the world including, USA, Australia and New Zealand.

He is also recognised for his significant involvement in the high profile litigation against St Georges School (Anglemoss Limited) and Cyntwell High School. These cases involved a staggering number of individuals who pursued those responsible whom despite heavily defending the claims brought against them settled by way of out of court settlements.

Charles regularly features in local and national press and he is often asked to provide his professional opinion and commentary on relevant abuse law issues and developments on radio and television broadcasts. Such broadcasts include BBC South Today, BBC Wales, ITV and ITN News.

Charles is a member of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers.

You can follow Charles on Twitter and Facebook.

Charles obtained his Law degree at Kingston University, before successfully completing his Legal Practice Course. He trained and qualified with Verisona Law beginning his specialism in the field of child abuse claims. He received his higher rights of Audience in 2012 making him one of the youngest Solicitor-Advocates in the country who is able to represent his clients in the High Court. Charles is head of the abuse team who collectively have secured compensation for hundreds of victims of abuse.

He began diversifying in to other aspects of abuse law and his team are one of the very few in the country who specialise in claims against social services.

He is involved in complex group action litigation and also represents a number of individuals and who are pursuing private companies, local authorities and perpetrators in pursuit of their justice.

Charles has strong contacts with some of the most prominent barristers who advise on abuse claims including a number of QC’s. He also has robust connections with highly qualified expert witnesses he instructs in support of those who he represents.

  • Child abuse claims
  • Claims against social services
  • Complex/Catastrophic Clinical Negligence claims

"Thank you for all your much appreciated hard work. I will truly never forget your kindness towards me. Your patience, respect and understanding at all times was beyond words. The sincere compassion shown meant more to me than words could ever express. This firm will forever hold a special place in my heart."


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