What to do when you suspect a poster is under 13?

Discussion in 'Members & Staff' started by jw791, Dec 14, 2006.

  1. jw791

    jw791 Enthusiast

    So my mods have raised the flag that they suspect one of our posters is under 13. I've caught kids lying about their age before, and I don't want that on the board.

    Problem is, I have no way to prove it. A google of their email addy and IP and identifying content from their posts has come up with no results.

    Any ideas? Is there a good way to confront them directly?

    FWIW, we don't use COPPA parental consent forms. All posters need to be at least 13.
  2. d8tabyte

    d8tabyte Habitué

    There is no way for them to prove if they are over 13, short of scanning some form of ID. As long as you show an earnest attempt at identifying the age of the member and provide information regarding the fact that anyone who signs up must be over 13, I believe you are covered.

    If it is a major concern, simply let the user know that you have reson to believe they lied about their age and that you are sorry, but you can not risk that liability on your forums and ban the user.
  3. Hopes

    Hopes Enthusiast

    Why do you restrict your membership to above 13 and older?

    I'm curious because I have a decent amount of children on my site some of which are under 13 years old. My site is a debate site and the children are more mature than some of our adult members. Perhaps that is because our site draws a more intellectual crowd since it's a debate forum.

    I wouldn't want to restrict access from children because they belong to debate teams or research for class. Any child who cares enough about debating and the issues that are generally debated truly deserves a platform. I like knowing some of the next generation are capable of being our future leaders.

    As a result, we don't exclude our members based on age, but instead on inability to follow our rules. I've banned more adults than children through the years.
  4. d8tabyte

    d8tabyte Habitué

    Read more: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/buspubs/coppa.htm
    C.O.P.P.A Law

    The law doesn't care if you think that 11 year old boy could be the next president. If you do not comply with the law, you will be subject to civil action.

    If you allow a child under 13 on your website, you better have coppa enabled and you better have written permission from their parents.
  5. JanS

    JanS Enthusiast

    Unless they publicly admit they are under 13, there is no way of knowing conclusively. If they do admit it, contact them and invite them back when they reach the grand old age of 13 ;)
  6. Hopes

    Hopes Enthusiast

    Thanks for the info, d8tabyte.

    My site doesn't fall under any of coppa criteria for the following reasons:

    1) My site ownership rests in a foreign country.
    2) There is nothing about my site that remotely could be construed as directed towards children.
    3) My site collects no information from members other than email address which the public can't view nor use to contact members.
    4) My site qualifies for the exemptions for collecting email addresses without parental consent.
  7. Skamper

    Skamper Enthusiast

    We have in our TOS, that we even suspect a member is 13 all information is immediately wiped. We also send an email explaining why we cannot afford to take the chance.

  8. s25

    s25 Aspirant

    I dont see why it is a issue to be honest, If you have a policy in place and COPPA does not apply to you then I would say ignore it,
  9. Jethro

    Jethro Enthusiast

    Hopes depends on site content. I help run a horror movie board, and one of the first questions was how to restrict content from being able to be viewed by people sub censor ratings. End of day next to impossible, so you simply have to slot in provisos, warnings, etc etc. We're invitation only so quite a bit of content is hidden away from the public.

    No doubt a number of members run "adult" orientated boards and know exactly what I mean here. If you wouldn't let your own children view the content, then you certainly have a moral obligation to do the best about not letting other people's children view your content as well.

    In answer to the person asking the question, pretty much your hands are tied. Make sure your staff are regularly checking new member posts. Younger members are generally pretty easy to spot if your staff are old hands at the forums game.
  10. Deadairdave

    Deadairdave Aspirant

    I've been to a few websites, funnily enough most of them are games sites, but obviously the content of the game is considered too graphic for kids, so they have you type in your DOB. Only downside I see to that is, you could lie about your age and still get through, lol; and kids are smart these days, if they want to gain access to something that is blocked by an age barrier, they will find a way to get around it and enter the sites!

  11. Alex Apple

    Alex Apple Lord Snowblood Apple

    Completely, totally, 100% agreed. When we set up our boards (also horror movie related), the issue of under age posters was a key one. What we did was include a phrase in our TOS saying that if you click "I agree" you are also declaring you are above the minimum age in your territory to view R / 18 -rated movies.

    We also force a birthday declaration on our users. Often times it's probably faked by underage members, but if there is a birthday that makes the user under 16 (our arbitrary cutoff date, in terms of age and maturity too) or if the user states publically they are too young, then we put them automatically into the COPPA usergroup until they are "of age".

    The vast majority of our content though is publically viewable, which doesn't bother me, as the content of the boards is always never less than work safe. We filter swearwords and don't allow rudeness or anything which might be considered objectionable within our discussions. The content of what we talk about is an entirely different matter.

    What does bother me (and, as I work in education, know could happen quite easily) is that a parent could take objection to the stuff we talk about. If then we can turn around and say a) look at our TOS and b) little Johnny declared himself to be "of age" and if he isn't, well, we're not telepathic and c) the forum and review site (especially) is plastered with warnings, and shouldn't you be monitoring your child's own internet use?, then I think we've got ourselves reasonably well protected.

    That said, one of these days I'm pretty sure this is going to bite us on the arse. But there's only so much you can do...
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