There are a lot of products and technologies available that support children asking for parental consent before purchases, etc. (Amazon, Microsoft, etc...)

And, it really isn't that hard to do to confirm whether someone is an adult, (at least in the U.S. and with IDs).

So, why aren't software companies, or at least their distributors, required to make good faith efforts to enforce age restrictions?

For example, maybe an answer would address:

Do age restriction laws somehow indicate what a good-faith effort should look like? Or, do these laws not actually exist, therefore not requiring a good-faith effort?

I suppose this is more or less addressing the theories of good-faith practices to comply with laws, and not specifically this issue.

  • 1
    You mean...like Tencent in China? Where a software company can just make you enter in your Resident Identity Card? You should be able to easily understand why many people, and Americans in particular, would not appreciate this. Confirming age is one thing. Confirming who you are against a government database is quite another. And if a child has access to their parent's credit card info, what more do you really want or need? More personal info that the child would also have access to?
    – DKNguyen
    Aug 29, 2022 at 3:17
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    Why? Well, perhaps because no one has yet lobbied it hard enough for it to be enacted.
    – Greendrake
    Aug 29, 2022 at 3:18
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    It really isn't that hard to do to confirm whether someone is an adult Are you sure about that? Can you provide a citation proving it? Even requiring a credit card is easily circumvented by a child stealing their parent's.
    – Stuart F
    Aug 29, 2022 at 9:52
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    Because the legislative branch and relevant government agencies, in their wisdom, have decided not to require them to do so.
    – ohwilleke
    Aug 29, 2022 at 18:57
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    @elikakohen Sure, there are APIs that let you verify a driver's license. But that's not the question you asked; you asked about verifying an attribute of a person using the computer, not an attribute of a driver's license. (If this doesn't make sense at first, think carefully about the difference between these two things.)
    – cjs
    Sep 1, 2022 at 16:50

3 Answers 3


Depending on the circumstances, companies may be required to make some effort. For example the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act 15 U.S.C. §§ 6501–6506 (or see Wikipedia) provides for when website operators must obtain "verifiable parental consent".

Examples of how to obtain consent (FTC):

  • a consent form sent by mail, fax or scanned and emailed to the operator

  • credit card, debit card, or other online payment system

  • a toll-free telephone number or videoconference

  • checking the parent's government-issued ID against the government ID database

  • requiring the parent to answer a series of questions the non-parent would find difficult to answer

  • Using facial recognition technology to compare a photo ID with another photo of the parent

  • Thanks! This is what I was looking for. Particularly general questions 11 & 12. I did not know these rules were mostly about privacy, and children under 13. This kind of makes it clear why companies don't do this, (because they don't really have to). But, now I am wondering what Steam and many other companies are doing with all the personal information of minor children that they know they have. For another day. ;) Thanks again. Sep 4, 2022 at 18:58

First of all, the only real answer to "Why doesn't the law require this or that?" is "Because the legislature hasn't passed such a law." In the US, Congress or a state legislature could, if they chose to, pass such a law. I see nothing unconstitutional about it.

And, it really isn't that hard to do to confirm whether someone is an adult, (at least in the U.S. and with IDs).

Actually, it is quite hard to confirm a person's real age and identity over the internet, if you assume that the person is willing to lie, and has access to a credit card and ID of an adult, which many teens can obtain if they wish. The usual means of validating age, say for entry into a bar, involve physical inspection of an ID, and comparison of it with the person by a trusted checker. Not easy over the net.


For applications sold on Apple’s App Store, Apple lets me specify an age restriction, and I suppose that apple does something with that age restriction, although I have never checked what exactly. I assume ticking that box would be enough.

Anything beyond that, if it is more than just asking for the users age, is a substantial cost for a small company. Websites that really shouldn’t be viewed by anyone underage usually just have a button that says “yes, I’m 18 or over” and another that says “no, I’m not 18 yet”.

BTW Most people don’t check whether something is “suitable” for a four year old, but whether it’s “harmful”. So an introduction to Einstein’s general relativity theory will likely be available to four year olds.

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