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On what basis can Google, Facebook, Tik Tok (to name a few) determine that the age of 13 is the age from which a person has all the privileges needed for the management of his account when the age of majority is 18 or 21, but not 13?

Family Link, provided by Google, is an application that allows you to add parental controls to a Google account to block access to websites and applications with mature content. However, it is indicated that it is not possible to monitor the account belonging to a person aged 13 and over. Ironically, it is not possible for a person under 13 to create an account. It is also indicated that the account of a person that is monitored by Family Link will be automatically removed from monitoring as soon as the person reaches the age of 13! According to Google, no parental control is possible with a child of 13 and over.

I agree that a child must be given more and more autonomy up to the age of majority but I wish to keep an eye on my child's digital behaviors to prevent dangerous situations he could put himself in, and to educate him on a few topics. I know that there are other ways to install parental controls, but I nevertheless ask myself the question why, according to Google (and Facebook, tik tok, etc.), can a minor person have the same privileges as a person of legal age regarding access to inappropriate content?

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2 Answers 2

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Children/youths are allowed to make some decisions themselves even before becoming adults.

In the US, COPPA has privacy protections for children under the age of 13. This means that many US-based or US-oriented online services refuse to provide services to people younger than 13. The terms of service often include language to the effect that no part of the service is intended to children under 13.

In the EU, the GDPR lets member states pick a cutoff age between 13 and 16 years. Children below this age cannot give consent themselves. However, this is a very narrow condition as consent isn't generally needed to use a website (cookie consent banners are extremely common though).

For example, Stack Exchange bans under 13 year olds, and under 16 year olds in the EU:

3. Age Eligibility

You must be at least 13 years old to access or use the Network or Services, including without limitation to complete a Stack Overflow account registration. By accessing or using the Services or the Network in any manner, you represent and warrant that you are at least 13 years of age. If you are under 13 years old, you may not, under any circumstances or for any reason, access or use the Services or Network in any manner, and may not provide any personal information to or on the Services or Network (including, for example, a name, address, telephone number or email address).

If you are located within the European Union, you must be at least 16 years old to access or use the Network or Services, including without limitation to complete a Stack Overflow Account Registration. By accessing or using the Services or the Network in any manner, you represent and warrant that you are at least 16 years of age. If you are under 16 years old, you may not, under any circumstances or for any reason, access or use the Services or Network in any manner, and may not provide any personal information to or on the Services or Network (including, for example, a name, address, telephone number or email address).

Source: Public Network Terms of Service

These age limits are solely related to privacy laws. This is not about whether the child has legal competency to enter into contracts, or about your rights as a parent to supervise the development of your children.

As a matter of internal policy, but in respect of this legal landscape, many parental control/surveillance software tools limit the available degree of control/surveillance as the children become older. While this may not be required in your particular jurisdiction, software providers are often interested in applying uniform policies across multiple jurisdictions.

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  • Thanks @amon for this interesting answer. So this explains where the age of 13 as a limit comes from. I still find there is an issue with the access to mature content by teenagers. For example, whatever your age, it's illegal for you to enter an adult movie store by simply stating that you are over 18 but it's legal to access an adult movie website by doing so.
    – Brac
    Commented Jan 27, 2022 at 13:01
  • @Brac The laws I mention are purely about privacy. Youth protection laws are a different matter. While it's certainly not effective, legitimate adult sites do require visitors to confirm they are over 18. Some countries have stronger age verification requirements, though I personally think they do more harm than good.
    – amon
    Commented Jan 27, 2022 at 13:25
  • This answer is a dodge, IMO. OP (@Brac) is mainly concerned with why Google turns off all parental controls when the child is 13. NYT raises the same question here: nytimes.com/2017/07/26/technology/personaltech/… . Commented Jan 23 at 14:48
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The date of birth is also factored into the account during setup. Not all access is given to all accounts. Also, if running Parental Controls, the content is censored as per the settings. Not all content is accessible and viewed the same when logged onto/into a Child account as with an Adult account.

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  • That's right. But a child account must be owned by a person of 12 and under. There is no parental control possible over 13 years old.
    – Brac
    Commented Jan 27, 2022 at 13:05

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