My daughter is ten, and it’s summer vacation. Mom works at home, so motto for the next few months is self-entertainment. Since Mom is an author, creative entertainment is encouraged. Anna has discovered a love for making and creating videos, and she’d like to share these with her friends. We live in a university town too, which means friends she wants to share her creative projects with have moved or gone for the summer and now live in Malaysia and Korea and Colorado and Alberta. Not a problem! We live in an information age, and we trip over technology in this house, there’s so much of it. She already has a gmail account where she chats with said far-flung friends. So we’ll just hook that up to YouTube, with Mom supervising and as usual knowing all the passwords and giving instructions as to how to safeguard oneself from internet nut jobs, starting with making video links private. Good to go, right?
Wrong. So very, very wrong. Because within two clicks of trying to sign up my child, Google not only aborts the process but says it’s freezing her whole account and deleting it within 30 days. Why? Because she’s not 13.
Imagine, please, the joy of my child who only wanted to share her videos now finding out she can’t talk to her friend in Malaysia or access any of her contacts or do anything related to her account, anything at all, all because she had the gall to want to share a YouTube video. I’m not sure how much she realized had happened; I tried to shield her while I frantically tried to figure out how to lie to the goddamned system to get it to let her back in. The account, by the way, is now mine. It’s my damn birthday entered now, and my credit card I had to load to get it back, and I almost hope you charge something stupid, Google, so I can sue your idiot ass.
I can understand a company needing to protect itself. I don’t know who decided 13 was some magic age when children can be on the internet unsupervised, but I didn’t vote for that bar, and I don’t subscribe to it. Frankly, I’d like to teach my child how to navigate the cyberworld now while her brain isn’t reeking of hormones and adolescent angst. Since she’s under 18 none of it matters anyway, does it? Since she’s my kid, so long as I’m not breaking some law, what the hell do you care, Google? She needs my permission to use your account? She has it. What more do you need? My credit card, I guess, and a pack of lies and subterfuge. May you enjoy them all.
We went though this on Facebook years ago, where Anna wanted to play along with everyone else until Facebook in their usual idiocy decided she couldn’t have an account, even though we’d lied on her age there too. That really hurt her, and she isn’t planning on having an account when she is old enough, which I hope she sticks with. It’s already uncool. I’m sure there’s somewhere better for teens to hang out or will be by then.
I don’t need to be protected from myself, and my kid is fine. I’m her parent, not some technology company. Until there’s a law saying no child under 13 can touch the internet, get out of my kid’s way, Google. And your little Facebook too.
Also, thanks a lot for the lesson that we should always lie about our age, lie in general, and work hard to undermine security systems. Always remember, Google. The children you stymie today will be the hackers who overthrow you tomorrow. Personally, I can’t wait to watch.