It is well known that the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) should prevent social networks from allowing members who are under the age of 13 to join. It doesn’t work in practice. The age verification process is totally worthless in keeping young users out, and it has been widely speculated that few networks actually do anything to shut down the account of a user in the event that it has knowledge that the user is under the age of 13.
It appears that YouTube is in fact taking steps to shut down accounts of users who are under 13.
A friend of ours, Greg from coppaNOW, was kind enough to send us a sample of an email that YouTube sent to a user. The email in its entirety follows:
We have been notified that the owner of the YouTube account ***** is under 13 years of age. As noted in our Terms of Service, YouTube is not intended for children under 13. Any accounts found to be controlled by individuals under 13 will be terminated. Please respond to this email within 5 business days if you are 13 or older, providing information so that we may verify your age. Acceptable forms of age verification include a birth certificate, drivers license, passport, or any other government-issued identification. If your account is controlled by your parent or guardian, please provide their contact information for verification of consent. If we do not hear from you within the following 5 business days, we will assume you are under 13 years of age and will terminate your account accordingly. Please do not use YouTube if you are under 13 years of age. There are lots of other great web sites for you. Talk to your parents about what sites are appropriate for you.
In our experience, almost every kid who has access to the internet uses YouTube. Not all of them have a YouTube account, so they would be unable to Like or comment on videos or post new videos, but they are still able to view videos and comments.
It looks as though if the minor claims to have parental consent, Google will contact the parents itself to confirm. Could a 10 year old get his parent’s consent to have a YouTube account? I guess it’s possible, but it would be easier to just open a new YouTube account.
If YouTube or any other network would, if given proof that a user is under 13, refuses or neglects to delete the account, that would be a serious breach of public trust. It’s nice to see YouTube and its parent company Google doing the right thing.
For parents whose kids are using YouTube, if you want to keep the adult content away from your kids, we encourage you to play around with the Safety Mode settings.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.