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Am I the only person who thinks this is a great way to teach your son about civil disobedience? It's clear this law, while well intended, isn't meant to cover this specific situation. I would argue this type of civil disobedience is the first step in getting the law changed (in this case, to something more reasonable, or requiring that parental consent be available and expedient).

It's important for children to understand that laws aren't written in stone and that if they dislike a law they can work to change it. Feeling helpless and acting helpless isn't in the best interest of anyone's child or our children's generation as a whole.




I think it's a horrible way to teach about civil disobedience.

The point of civil disobedience is to get the law changed. By quietly lying about your age, you're doing the opposite, you're making it harder to get the law changed. Civil disobedience is about adding friction to the system as an incentive to change the law. By doing something nobody can notice you're adding grease.

It's not civil disobedience if nobody notices what you're doing. It's not civil disobedience if you aren't inconveniencing people in power.

By lying about your age, you're breaking the law purely for selfish benefit, which is not the lesson a parent wants to teach a child.

Sacrificing himself by following the law, and spreading the story widely as the author and his son have done will do much more to get the law changed.


Thank you for your comment. People seem to have no idea what civil disobedience is. In addition to the good points you made, I'd also like to point out a couple things: First, this is not civil disobedience, it's corporate disobedience. And second, people seem to have forgotten that civil disobedience entails putting your ass on the line, in the form of publicly and flagrantly breaking a law.

The point of civil disobedience is to appeal to people's consciences, to call out a wrong far greater than your law-breaking, and to willingly open yourself to prosecution in order to make that point. (That's why Anonymous isn't committing civil disobedience until they turn themselves in and allow themselves to be on trial in order to call attention to the unalloyed benefit to society they seem to think they're providing.)

I don't see how Google's disallowing ten year olds to have Gmail accounts is a wrong: it seems more like a simple business decision in the face of a law that's designed to keep companies from preying on ten year olds by inundating them with marketing.

We all know the poster's child is special, but for all of the kids who aren't the offspring of ├╝bermenshen, this is a fight that maybe's not worth fighting.


My youngest brother is eight. Far from being the offspring of ubermenshen, he suffers from a slew of learning disabilities inflicted on his brain by drug use during pregnancy.

My brother doesn't type fast, he doesn't know how to code python. He does immensely enjoy minecraft, and he does use google. Honestly, for him, the ability to find something using google, going through the immensely difficult task of correctly typing a search term and then parsing the search result is a massive achievement.

All that said, to suggest that he shouldn't be allowed his gmail account, given the immense amount of effort it took for him to learn to use it, is not something I'm willing to stomach.

Its part of the internet, and he is well and truly a member of the internet generation. Its something he should have every right to grow up immersed in.

That the internet is made of advertising is no reason to deny our children access.


Yes, my daughter is too young to use Google. I will probably break the TOS and allow her to use Google when it gets older. My point is that this isn't civil disobedience or corporate disobedience, this is just me breaking the TOS. I'm cool with that, but I'm not going to pretty it up and call it civil disobedience.


First, this is not civil disobedience, it's corporate disobedience.

Not really. The reason it seems fuzzy is that the modern US government likes to offload its regulations onto corporations and other entities. In the interest of "protecting" children, they subject online service providers to penalties for allowing children access. In turn, these services must restrict access by children in order to protect themselves from the government.

Thus, although the direct object of the action is Google -- a corporation -- it really is an act against the nanny state.


COPPA protects children from advertisers. Google makes all of its money through advertisements. It appears that the law is doing exactly what it should be doing.


Ten years old is a condition of birth, just like race or gender, and is therefore an unlawful basis for discrimination. Discrimination may only be done by behavioral test, such as the tests the FAA uses to determine if 10 year-olds should be allowed to pilot an airplane (yes, really).

"... the face of a law that's designed to keep companies from preying on ten year olds by inundating them with marketing."

Then why ban 13 year-olds but allow mentally retarded 14 year-olds? Because this law, like all based on condition of birth, is about domination and control for political ends.

"People seem to have no idea what civil disobedience is."

It is breaking a law because you were born free. You don't have to have an axe to grind.


Not every law is good, and just because something is written to law doesn't mean that you should blindly obey it. I think the grandparent post is right in that this is a nice way of illustrating that point.

However, I definitely see your point that quietly lying about his age is likely not the best way to get the law changed.


I agree with you that you not only have to break the law but publicly flaunt it. I think the blog post is a good first step in an overall plan, which may include the production of letters to members of congress, or other political persons (Judges?).

My point was that if you see something that is obviously wrong and it's caused by a well intended law you have a responsibility to do something. I admit I'm something of a freedom zealot so my view on what corporations and especially the government can restrict you from doing is broad in general, but clearly this is a good learning opportunity about what to do if you're faced with a "buggy program" (aka a law).


The law is meant to cover this specific situation. The FTC, enforcing COPPA, fined the social network Xanga $1,000,000 for allowing children under 13 to sign up without parental consent.[1] The law is specifically intended to prevent advertising agencies -- like Google -- from gathering information from children.

"Research ... showed that young children cannot understand the potential effects of revealing their personal information; neither can they distinguish between substantive material on websites and the advertisements surrounding it. While some parents tried to monitor their children's use of the Internet services, many of them failed due to lack of time, computer skills, or awareness of risk. ... 'a Los Angeles television station reported that it obtained a detailed computer printout of the ages and addresses of 5,500 children living in Pasadena simply by sending $277 to a Chicago database firm.'"[2]

[1] http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14718350 [2] http://epic.org/privacy/kids/#introduction


Yeah, but that's just BS - even many adults fail to distinguish between ads and content. So should they fall under COPPA too?


You are exactly right, which is why adults are covered by OPPA (where the C, for Children, is removed): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Online_Privacy_Protection_Act

As in contract and rape law, people below an arbitrary cutoff age are presumed to be unable to give consent (or to even understand what "consent" means). Once beyond that age, the person is considered to be able to give consent, e.g. click "Agree" on a Terms/Conditions form or use a website with a very visible Privacy Policy link.


There is definitely an overlap area between < 13 year olds that are responsible and > 13 year olds that aren't responsible, but how can you tell who is who? Maybe 13 was a line in the sand to make the law practical.


Perhaps we should follow the example set by statutory rape laws: children of age x (where x<13) can only give their personal information to sites run by children whose age is within 24 months of x.

(Yes, I am joking.)


No, no. Stupid and ignorant adults are a wildly profitable resource for corporations, advertisers, and marketers. That's not exploitation; it's capitalism. But the children, they must be protected.


I'm mostly okay with the law covering this specific situation, but the law could reasonably be amended to allow for an easy way for parents to give consent - instead of companies just denying access based on an arbitrary age.

If they can require my bank to double up on the login confirmations, they can require services to provide a reasonable way to let parents give their consent.


what sort of civil disobedience are you suggesting? he doesn't really have a lot of options here.

the only lesson is see coming out of this, if they go the route you are suggesting, is that civil disobedience is futile.


First, subvert the law. Second, make it public (blog post is a good start). Third, start contacting your congressmen. Fourth, attempt to contact Google and indicate that you're getting ready to talk to reporters. Past that, I'm unsure. Can I ensure that any of this will change the law, no. But that's always true.




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