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I was looking through the "legal" page (because of my last question, a link) and saw something stating that a participant must be at least 13 years of age. Out of curiosity, why? This has been bugging me since I read that page.

Wouldn't that encourage underage participants to lie about their age? Also, the very next sentence says that underage participants must not disclose personal information. Wait, what?! Underage participants cannot join, but cannot enter personal information once joined. Can someone explain this to me?

P.S. This would explain the "quality" of unregistered user's posts. :P

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    There's no point to this question, not when its self-answered. – Frank Sep 6 '15 at 18:03
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    Before I asked this question, I didn't know why you had to be 13+ to access this site, because it didn't seem PG-13 to me. I just added what @PrivatePansy said for the benefit of users who had the same inquiry as I did. – Rainbow Dash Sep 6 '15 at 22:01
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    @Frank, your going to have to do better then "no point because its self answered". If that was a valid argument, self answer would not be an option. – user106385 Sep 6 '15 at 23:27
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    It shouldn't matter if RainbowDash answered or if PrivatePansy answered, votes & closure have always been based on content, not who wrote it. Rainbow got his/her answer and just saved everyone else the bother of writing it up properly. – Robotnik Sep 6 '15 at 23:59
  • @Robotnik, provided an alternate answer, anyway. Did a little lookup and found that PrivatePansys answer was actually slightly inaccurate. For example, it is not illegal to collect information. The act forces compliance in how the information is gathered and stored. – user106385 Sep 7 '15 at 0:08
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Arqade is a popular site, and is not only accessible to children (in this context, any user under 13), but has a major focus on a topic children are generally interested in.

Any website that is either hosted in, or within jurisdiction of the United States of America must abide by the 1998 Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, where compliance is mandatory if the website is deemed directed at children under specific qualifiers, and violation can be quite expensive.

To quote part of the definition of Who must comply;

If you operate a commercial Web site or an online service directed to children under 13 that collects personal information from children or if you operate a general audience Web site and have actual knowledge that you are collecting personal information from children, you must comply with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

...

To determine whether a Web site is directed to children, the FTC considers several factors, including the subject matter; visual or audio content; the age of models on the site; language; whether advertising on the Web site is directed to children; information regarding the age of the actual or intended audience; and whether a site uses animated characters or other child-oriented features.

Let's all be honest here. Kids love video games. But so do people of all ages, and here at the Arqade, there is a certain expectation of maturity. Kids can still have their problems solved. I often see questions posted by the parent, who in turn is able to for a better immediate understanding of our rules, and post without need of a serious edit to cater for poor spelling or grammar.

By having a set requirement that users be at least 13, Stack Exchange forces an intended audience, and despite focusing on video games, and having cartoon-ish graphics and backgrounds, would not count as having to comply with the act. In turn, special precautions do not have to be made, to ensure compliance. There is also no risk of accidental noncompliance, which could result in a hefty fine for the owners.

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    There are still precautions SE has to take. Any time they are informed about a user admitting to be younger than 13 they remove the account and purge all private information about it. – Mad Scientist Sep 8 '15 at 6:13
  • Children can be mostly (or completly) anonymous,since no real private information is required. @MadScientist – John Sep 13 '15 at 16:53
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    So if a user is under 13 years old,but it is does not provide (real) data about him/her,it's 100% legal. – John Sep 14 '15 at 12:48
  • @John, the regulations associated with the code are fairly accessible if you want to go read for yourself. It says fairly clearlythat the rules apply when kids are a target audience. By officially not allowing kids, they are officially not target audience. If your getting caught up in the fine print, Im not sure Im suppose to be explaining legal like this in comments. Read my answer properly, read the actual act regulations, or ask about it on the legal SE. – user106385 Sep 14 '15 at 19:24
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Adam Davis, in the link that @Private Pansy provided, states that:

The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act requires that websites cannot collect personal information from children under the age of 13, including "full name, home address, email address, telephone number or any other information that would allow someone to identify or contact the child."

Since Stack Exchange, during the registration process, allows users to enter their name, email address, and website URLs where other users might be able to contact the user, Stack Exchange is legally obligated to follow this law.

If you want to change it without doing one of the above you'll need to do one of the following:

Get Stack Overflow to accept parental/guardian permission for individual accounts, since as long as the parent agrees, COPPA allows websites to collect such information. (Note: It's really, really expensive/hard to comply with these rules, which is why almost no sites do it unless their target audience is mostly underage, like DisneyGo.) Lobby the US Congress to change COPPA to allow your usage of the site.

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  • Children can be anonymous,meaning that they are able to remove personal data. – John Sep 13 '15 at 16:50
  • @John not allowing users under 13 prevents them from adding personal data in the first place (theoretically), which is a legal protection for SE. If some kid DOES pop in and give out their address and get stalked or worse, SE isn't as liable if the official policy says no kids. The theory is that children can't be trusted NOT to hand out their full name, address, and iPhone GPS tracking codes to every random stranger on the internet, so we have to keep them away... – gatherer818 Sep 20 '15 at 13:24

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