What is your opinion on age clauses in the Terms of Service on your websites?

tos

#1

I have started reading the Terms of Service of the websites I always use and noticed quite a few of them say you should not use the website if you are under the age of 13 even if you have parental consent. For example, section 12 of YouTube’s Terms of Service says:

You affirm that you are either more than 18 years of age, or an emancipated minor, or possess legal  
parental or guardian consent, and are fully able and competent to enter into the terms, conditions, 
obligations, affirmations, representations, and warranties set forth in these Terms of Service, and to abide 
by and comply with these Terms of Service. In any case, you affirm that you are over the age of 13, as the 
Service is not intended for children under 13. If you are under 13 years of age, then please do not use the 
Service. There are lots of other great web sites for you. Talk to your parents about what sites are 
appropriate for you.

Twitter and Facebook also have similar clauses that discourage people under the age of 13.

I want to know your opinion of these companies having a clause that discourages people under the age of 13 and what you think of having a clause in your own website’s Terms of Service.

Also what about parental permission? (this is separate as I am pretty sure most people would want children to need permission)


#2

Often those clauses are for legal reasons. Eg in Germany you are not allowed to sign a contract on your own before you are 14 IIRC.

Also especially for social media, I think a certain age and level of experience is also necessary. If I’d let my son (7) access Facebook and the like without restriction he’d share much more of our daily life than is good for him and us. And I think posting photos without permission is not the only thing he’d do…

In my opinion, the barrier should be even higher, some kind of driving license for social media.


#3

My service has a minimum age of 16 due to GDPR. I don’t want to deal with parental permission things and other additional headaches due to users that are too young (even though my service in itself has no user-contributed content and so is safe to use).

I solve this with an unchecked checkbox in the signup form that says “I am 16 years of age or older and able to consent to the terms above”, because I don’t know of a better way to do it. Enforcing it would be pretty much impossible, so I just hope this checkbox is enough.


#4

The 13 age limit is due to COPA law in the US iirc.


#5

Having built a peer to peer marketplace that handles the money (escrow like service) I’ve found that truly enforcing anything online is actually quite difficult. The best you can hope for is making the undesirable behaviour difficult enough that people don’t bother, and having the correct procedures in place to move the liability away from the company.

We had to comply with quite a few payment procedures to move the onus of fraud from us to Stripe. We had to attempt to stop users from sharing contact details outside our messaging playform. All largely bandaid measures.

I think if there’s truly a case for age restrictions, many of these new digital banks have showcased how simple and user friendly true user identification can be (having signed up for a few, I can say with confidence that Starling has got onboarding nailed!). That said, I certainly wouldn’t want to submit the same kind of data to a social network (driving license, etc) even if the info it contains is actually quite benign compared to what Facebook et all actually know about me.

TL;DR Unless you actually need to restrict a users age for a legit reason, sticking something in the TOS to cover your arse seems to be the preferred option.