Why do some apps ask for my age?

31 Jul 2018 Becca Cawthorne

Childnet, a partner in the UK Safer Internet Centre, look at age restriction, specifically why some apps may ask for your age or date of birth.

Social media services logos

Every day, our Education Team are in schools across the country talking to children, young people, teachers and parents about their experiences online and how they can stay safe on the internet.

In this series of blogs we look to answer some of the most frequently asked questions from these sessions. 

Why do some apps ask for my age?

There are a number of different types of websites or apps that may ask you to confirm your age before you start using them, these include:

  • Social media
  • Games
  • Dating websites or apps
  • Gambling websites or apps

Why do they ask for my age?

Some apps are designed for older people and adults, this can be due to the content on the app, the data that is stored on the users, or could be due to the aim of the app (for example dating apps).

The reason most social media services use an age limit of 13 or over is in part because of a law in the USA. The COPPA law or Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act states that any organisations or people operating online services (including social media services) are not allowed to collect the personal information of anyone under the age of 13 without parental permission.

To avoid the necessity of obtaining parental permission for any user under the age of 13, most services have instead chosen to place an age restriction of 13 to their services. They write this rule into their Terms and Conditions – which users must agree to when they initially sign up and some services may ask users to declare their age during sign up. These sites will delete accounts created by someone under the age of 13 in order to both protect the user and to protect themselves from breaking the law stated in COPPA

You can read more details about the age Restrictions on Social Media Services on our blog https://www.childnet.com/blog/age-restrictions-on-social-media-services

But what if I lie about my age?

Although it can feel like a long wait to be the right age to use some service, it is never a good choice to lie about your age in order to create an account. There are a number of reasons for this:

  • Extra protection and privacy settings that apply to under 18 can be lost, whether immediately if you put an age that is over 18 or early than expected if you put an younger age that will turn 18 even when you are old enough to use the site
  • You can lose your account on a lot of services if it is discovered that you are younger than the age you say you are. Some services even stop you making an account on a future date, even if you are then the right age, if they discover you having an account underage.
  • You may see something unsuitable for your age. Some apps have a minimum age due to the content that is on them, this could be violent or upsetting, and by putting a false age you could be exposed to something that you do not want to see.

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