ailon's DevBlog: Development related stuff in my life

Raising a Generation of Liars

7/11/2011 7:17:24 PM

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Photo by Leo Reynolds

Windows Phone, Zune, Xbox Live

I’ve bought a second Windows Phone. At current prices in Europe it’s basically on par with iPod Touch as far as the price goes. So I got it to be able to test stuff on more devices and, primarily, as a phoneless gaming device for my daughter. It seems to work just fine w/o the SIM card.

My daughter has had Windows Live ID for some time already. Windows Live Family Safety is awesome at helping parents give reasonable and safer internet access to their kids. So this worked just fine for me for a number of years.

Now to be able to install apps on Windows Phone you have to create a Zune account (and possibly Xbox Live too). So I went to do that.

First of all none of the Windows Phone related services are available in Lithuania, so I had to lie just there by selecting some other country where services are available. So I chose UK. Then you have to enter your date of birth. I’m doing this for my daughter who has just turned 12. So I enter her actual DoB and I get a screen that a parent needs to confirm this action for a minor. Fair enough. I login with my Live ID and now I have to confirm my own age by providing a credit card. OK, I can do this. Problem is it wont accept my Lithuanian Visa or MasterCard (even though it had no problems reserving 1GBP on it).

So I have these 2 LiveIDs. I’ve been using my Live ID to manage my daughter’s actions via Family Safety for years. But now I suddenly have to prove that I’m an adult. Hmm.

So I start over and enter my year of birth instead of daughter’s for her Live ID and bam.. no more questions asked, account created. Everything is peachy. Huh?

Now I don’t want to give Microsoft too much heat here. They are obviously doing this because of the government regulations and they are doing probably the best job in the industry with this. The only thing that actually failed here is their unwillingness to accept “foreign” credit cards which haunts me for their general Windows Phone services too.

Google hurting 10 year olds

Most of you have probably heard of the 10 year old boy from Netherlands who had his Gmail account locked as a result of signing up for Google+ and honestly specifying his date of birth. If not, you can read the original blog post here and a follow up here.

The ridiculous part is that Google lets kids into Gmail based on them accepting the ToS that has some vague terms on age restrictions and doesn’t ask for their birth date. So the kid is technically not allowed to accept the ToS, yet no one makes an attempt to verify his age during the signup and only punishes him a number of years later when he signs up for a different service and is completely honest about his age.

If they’ve asked for his age during the Gmail signup process he would probably go to Hotmail where his parents could set up an account for him via the excellent Family Safety tools. Probably not what Google wants.

Facebook is a ticking mass suicide bomb

My daughter has no Facebook account. She whined and whined about having one until I sat her down and told her to register while I’m watching. She had to enter her date of birth and wasn’t allowed in. Problem solved.

But guess what? Probably half of her classmates have Facebook accounts. They just selected a different year during signup. Now imagine if something like the above mentioned Google+ incident happens at scale on Facebook… I seriously think there would be not one and not two suicides over this.

Who cares?

No one is really interested in solving this problem. The easiest solution for everyone is for kids to just lie about their age. This way the tech companies are sort of not responsible for letting them in and everyone is happy.

I can’t remember of me having to lie this casually when I was a child and I don’t think it’s going to pass by without affecting our kids. Yeah, I sound like an old fart.

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