UPDATE: Understanding all sides of U13 communities

There are 2 main areas that I often see glazed over when designing communities that may be used by (or attract) people under 13 years old (U13), specifically in the US:Legal Concerns

  • COPPA legislation is about access to private info for a specific population (U13’s). It is not about the content on your site (unless of course that content is the personal info of U13’s). The heart behind it is protecting kids, but the actual items on the checklist you need to verify that exist on your site are about limiting the access to those
    under 13.
  • Because of this, in order to stay on the right side of the law, site operators need only to put the minimum barriers to entry they can and still stay in the right according to the law.
  • This usually means a check box certifying that you are over 13, a message that says you have to be over 13 to join or a limited drop down menu for only ages above 13. By doing this, you are “restricting
    access” to only those people above the age of 13.

Yet, this does nothing to deter lying and it certainly does little for an explanation as to why you are putting this hurdle up in the first place. Which leads me to the other area that is often simply forgotten in the design process:

Ethical Concerns

  • The other side of this is to really believe in the heart behind the legislation and make up for where it is lacking.
  • If you are not able to manage an audience of under 13 year olds, this means putting the same barriers to entry up mentioned before, but explaining WHY they are there, urging the users not lie about their ages, detailing what will happen if they do and then actually caring out those consequences when needed.
  • If you are targeting under 13 year olds, you need to decide whether you have everything as canned communication, whether you have the ability to monitor all the content before it goes live, whether you have the ability to obtain verifiable parental consent and the ability to keep a staff managed and up to date on how to best manage and help your community.

The Legalities and Ethics of U13 Community Hurdles « Joi Podgorny


Here are several links to my thoughts on similar Tween/Community (each play out like a field diary from someone who HANDS ON deals with protecting and empowering a kids community) issues form the past:

“Sow Good Services…”

“Level With Your Child…”

Media Responsibility, Myspace, and Youngin’s

Virtual Life, The Sims, and Teaching the Future

More Kids Social Networking

“To Find a Friends One Must…”

User Generated Content Is Totally Square Man

“Some Jerk Infected The Internet…”

“If Our American Way of Life Fails…”

“We Worry About What A Child”

Tween Rule: TV & Web

Dodgeball Gives Me An Ulcer

Youtube and Companies That Cater to U13 Crowds

IM Stalking Takes a Whole New Level

Zwinktopia Stomps into Tweens Virtual Worlds

Worthy Teen Sites

Kajeet’s New Buddy…

Hanging With the Tater Tots

The Cyber of Cyberbullying

CNet’s Guide to Kid Safety for Parents

Teen Crunch, ahead of th curve?

The Educational Coolness of Various Kid Virtual Worlds

Teens Are Going to Mess Up Regardless!

Teens And Virtual Worlds More on the Future

MTV’s Virtual Madness, How Long Can It Last?

Teens + Tech = Present & Future

Corp Thoughts On Tweens and Social Networking

Age Verification & Parental Control…

Money and Social Networking for Kids

Curious: Parents Trust Moderators?

Testing and Improving Communities and Websites

Youth Marketing & UGC, Is It Right?

UGC and the Community

Branded Communities and the Things To Know

Screening Youth: Good or Bad

Danger! That in-ter-net is after your children!

Online Community Department Vs The World

Virtual Goodies

Biz Eye Of Mordor on Your Children

Communties NOT for Kids/Tweens

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