We are all born on 1st January 1900
My Daughter ( 9 ) is of an age where she wants to be able to Email her school friends. She also needs to be able to have an email account if she wants to sign up for Games or web content. Being a technically aware parent and having some experience with Google apps for your Domain I figured the best answer would be to utilise the Family domain of butlershouse which has already been served by Google apps and create a new user account for Alyssa to access. In doing so I would have a dashboard control for the family email over which I can check on access to the account and have a a more granular control over the settings and apps accessible through the account. I set up the account, I created and confirmed the various fields and I showed my daughter how to access her email and send and receive an email. At some point in her usage of it a Google app had asked for her Date of Birth and she , being the Honest individual we expect, answered correctly. A few days later her Account was suspended and I was in Helpdesk mode trying to recover the suspended account. From using a free service I have to signup and pay for the enterprise support in order to have access to additional tools in which I can reset the Age of my Daughters email and recover access to her account.
This is not Googles fault ; they are having to follow guidelines created by governments. Meanwhile schools in the UK can provide my child with an email account and I have not control over who has access to that.
So on the one hand a corporate is not allowed to provide me a tool to create an email service for my own family but a government can provide my daughter with an email account in which I have no say or access or oversight as to whom is accessing her inbox without our permission.
I could have avoided some of this hassle by creating my own mail server but I would not have had access to the virus and spam blocking tools that Google provide. I would not have had access to the Mail routing other granular controls available from Google Apps for Your Domain. I can control read receipts , disable imap and pop , allow mail to be delegated to other users block specific senders from outside her control and restrict domains for which mail can be delivered I can block attachment types and limit message size. The wealth of useful control for a technically capable parent is stunning and a singular reason to suggest that Google Apps need a For Your Family subset of their product and they need it soon. It is possible I could have created an account on SafenSound but in watching the video I can point out a number of flaws in such Helicopter parenting ( but thats not the point of this post )
I am not angry at Google , I dont fault them for following policy. I am angry that yet again Government policies are restricting my daughters and my own experiences online. I am angry that the policy requires me to lie on behalf of my daughter and to encourage her to actively be dishonest on websites that need to know her age. I am angry that to get this fixed the conversation could never include the fact that a nine year old was accessing an email account. That she is only accessing and not in control or in ownership of the account could not come into the conversation. I am angry because this sort of short sighted policy gets built and makes it harder to families to grow into an online community.
When politicians pass laws to try to protect online communities they are quite often informed that the expected outcomes of their policies will not be the ones they intended. For my Daughters to use the internet and the service I wish her to access and, because of a law passed by an American Govt I have explained when asked for a date of birth online she will have to see me; and I will say her date of birth is 01 January 1900 ; just like her Dad.
Incidentally if you are curious as to how I encourage my children to remain safe online then you can read my article in that link.
Thanks for reading.