By Chris Blain
November 29, 2018
The world of streaming has opened many new forms of entertainment that reach all demographics, from small children to grown adults. Since that is such a large demographic to appeal to, it is no surprise that age restrictions for streaming have become a topic of concern.
Streaming is all around us in some form or another whether it be in the form of a television program, podcast, or even the news! People get their information from many different sources these days, and the internet is the gateway to it all!
That said – not all information is appropriate for everyone – especially younger audiences. What age restrictions – if any – are out there for these new entertainment goliaths? What barriers truly stand in the way of these unregulated minors gaining access when they should be restricted?
Restrictions have been a standard part of society for quite some time. Everyone has an opinion when it comes to content appropriate for younger audiences. The same viewpoint cannot be said about the ever-evolving technology!
People’s mentalities about restricting younger audiences may not have changed, but technology has significantly changed the way people get their entertainment – including children. Younger audiences get their entertainment from internet sources just as often as from television programs.
Understanding these new forms of entertainment is important because younger audiences don’t just watch the streams – they can create their own! With the internet at our fingertips, it is important that we have a functional gateway to vet who should and shouldn’t see content.
It should come as no surprise that age restrictions are a standard part of social media sites. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat have an age restriction of 13 to create an account.
Some jurisdictions may require that age to be even higher, but 13 is the standard age to comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. This act says that companies cannot track the information of anyone younger than 13 without consent from their parents or legal guardians.
Broadcasting and anything relating to the streaming process is to be done under the guidance and supervision of said parent and adult. There are age restriction features that can be placed on broadcasts with the minimum age as 13.
Even with the laws out there protecting children with a mandatory age restriction, they leave out a huge detail. There is no authentication process to identify if the minor has permission or supervision from a parent or adult, outside of live broadcasting themselves on camera.
Facebook Terms of Service.
Twitch is probably the reason we’re even discussing streaming since it was one of the most popular streaming services to come out recently. Those who wish to utilize Twitch Services must either be 13 or under the supervision of an adult who agrees to be bound by the TOS agreement.
Streamers not legally considered adults in their region are subject to a similar situation as child stars. Their parent or guardian will have a large say over what they can and cannot do since that parental guardian is taking responsibility for the terms of service.
Just like social media platforms – there is no authentication process to verify if a minor is being honest. A parent or guardian must take responsibility for the terms of service – yet – there aren’t any parameters to authenticate guardian consent unless the minor streams themselves live.
Underage streaming can result in an account ban because to appear on broadcast before the age of 18, the terms of service state you must have the supervision of a parent or guardian. However, if the minor is just streaming gameplay without a webcam or voiceover, there is no way to know.
Twitch Service Terms of Service
YouTube follows a similar suit in requiring its account users to be at least 18 years old to create an account. However, young users can skirt around this with parental consent and other legal jargon. In fact, when it comes to age, YouTube has a lot of legal jargon.
YouTube’s TOS Specifically States: “If you are under 13 years of age, then please do not use the Service. There are lots of other great web sites for you. Talk to your parents about what sites are appropriate for you.”
YouTube is clear that if you are under the age of 13, the service may not be appropriate for you. It encourages children to talk to their parents. While this is by far the most entertaining TOS out of any of these streaming services, it’s tucked away deep inside the terms of service agreement. It’s also missing something; do you know what that is? You betcha, guardian verification!
YouTube Terms of Service
That leads into the questions of why do these age restrictions even matter if they can’t get enforced?
There are many ways to get around age verification. Kids being told they can’t do something isn’t going to stop them. After all, nobody puts their real age in the box, do they? Age restriction is just a barrier. Say you were born in 1901, and you’re good.
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act was created for a reason, and it wasn’t just because people bully each other or say inappropriate things online. The internet gives predators and scammers an anonymous mask. With this power, they act like trusted friends and bait children into giving up passwords and home addresses.
Kids need to be aware of the dangers lurking online. By age 13, kids absolutely need to learn how to identify scammers and baiters. It’s not just about parental consent, but about teaching kids internet safety.
Streaming is the most popular form of entertainment for the current generation to get their news, television, movies, and so on. It is no surprise that the industry is being flooded with new talent regularly. Still, there is a severe security flaw in the authentication processes.
Restricted content should have far better parameters to ensure the appropriate audiences are viewing it. Currently, kids can easily circumvent authentication processes by making fake email accounts, social media, and so on to trick the software designed for age verification.
In compliance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, streaming services have set the minimum user age at 13. However, without changing their verification processes, there is nothing to stop children from joining any website.
Kids don’t care about parental consent; they want the instant gratification a website provides. Therefore, if the laws don’t change, streaming websites will need to come up with a solution to solve the problem.