Jan. 29, 2010
Those of you working with students under the age of 13 have probably found that the terms of service of many sites you would like to use with students specifically state that anyone under the age of 13 are strictly prohibited from using their sites. For example, if you look at the terms of service for Ning (http://www.ning.com), you will find the following:
The Ning Platform is not directed to children younger than 13 and is offered only to users 13 years of age or older. If you are under 13 years old, please do not use the Ning Platform. Any person who provides their personal information through the Ning Platform represents to us that they are 13 years of age or older.
This can be a huge downer. Thankfully, many sites are starting to come around in an effort to bring their services equally to all no matter what the age, while at the same time meeting safety regulations.
Some sites like Voicethread (http://ed.voicethread.com), Animoto (http://animoto.com/education) and Weebly (http://education.weebly.com/) have opened specific portals on their sites targeted toward students, giving them access in a more controlled environment.
However, if you read the terms of service on some of these sites, there appears to be a contradiction. For example, on Weebly, the terms state:
Users under 13 years of age are prohibited from using the Service.
When faced with these contradictory statements, don’t take them at face value. Email the company and ASK QUESTIONS! Quite often, these terms of service statements were written prior to the launch of a site’s education portal and have not been edited to reflect new thinking.
I’ve had two recent experiences where this was the case. The first example is Aviary (http://www.aviary.com). Like Ning, their terms stated that students under 13 were strictly prohibited. But after I sent them an email expressing that they could still protect students while keeping up with all safety/privacy regulations by requiring parental permission, they changed their terms to state:
In any case the Site is not intended for children under 13 without the constant supervision of a parent or legal guardian. If you are under 13 years of age and not under the constant supervision of a parent or legal guardian, then please do not use the Site. You certify that you are legally permitted to use the Services and access the Site, and you or your legal guardian take full responsibility for the selection and use of the Services and access of the Site.
This happened again with Weebly. While Weebly offers an education portal, their terms of service state that students under 13 are prohibited. After emailing, and again questioning the terms of service, I received the following reply.
You can disregard our terms of service age restriction in this case. It needs to be updated. We have a note when creating student accounts that if students are under 13 years old, parental consent must be obtained.
The moral of this story…Ask Questions and Initiate Change.
Have any of you had a similar experience?