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I was just reading the Terms of Service, and noticed something:

Subscriber certifies to Stack Overflow that if Subscriber is an individual (i.e., not a corporate entity), Subscriber is at least 13 years of age. No one under the age of 13 may provide any personal information to or on Stack Overflow (including, for example, a name, address, telephone number or email address).

I signed up for Stack Overflow when I was around 11 or 12 and I did provide my email address. Are you saying that my use of Stack Overflow was not legal?

I'm 13 now (so I'm in the clear), but that just seems a little harsh. Is that possibly related to the age limit for accepting a binding contract/agreement (although I thought that was 18 in the U.S.)?

Is there a way for those under the age of 13 to use the site legally?

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Not really a bug, unless you expected the system to scan your passport/IC/Birth certificate/whatever form of personal identification you have, right? ;) –  Yi Jiang Aug 21 '10 at 3:34
Did you have your parent's permission? ;) –  James Aug 21 '10 at 3:59
Teh, age limits on the internet. Nobody really cares. Your fine –  TheLQ Aug 21 '10 at 14:07
I think @Adam's answer is the best in terms of being useful to future generations. Maybe it would be worth making it the accepted answer? –  Pëkka Aug 13 '11 at 16:48
@TheLQ: Well, actually, yes they do. Perhaps you don't, but don't think for a moment that that is the same thing. –  Lightness Races in Orbit Apr 3 '13 at 17:39
@LightnessRacesinOrbit He was rounding the number just a tiny bit :) –  Camilo Martin Jun 11 '14 at 6:14
@CamiloMartin: What makes you say that? –  Lightness Races in Orbit Jun 11 '14 at 9:03
@LightnessRacesinOrbit The people who care about a 12-year-old posting a question on how to parse HTML with regex because of his age (instead of because of the question being a common duplicate) are probably people who manage services like websites and are used to follow the law to the letter to avoid being sued and such. –  Camilo Martin Jun 11 '14 at 16:56
@CamiloMartin: That doesn't answer my question, unless you meant he was rounding the "number" "nobody". I don't really understand what you're saying, though. –  Lightness Races in Orbit Jun 11 '14 at 17:23
@LightnessRacesinOrbit I'm saying he was likely rounding the number of people that care about the real-world age of arbitrary StackExchange users down to zero, i.e., "nobody really cares". –  Camilo Martin Jun 11 '14 at 18:46
@CamiloMartin: I see. –  Lightness Races in Orbit Jun 11 '14 at 18:58

1 Answer 1

up vote 59 down vote accepted

How do I use Stack Exchange if I'm under 13?

Have your parent or legal guardian set up a personal account for themselves in their name with their personal information attached. Get their permission to use that account as your main account.

Why is this restriction in place?

The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act requires that websites cannot collect personal information from children under the age of 13, including "full name, home address, email address, telephone number or any other information that would allow someone to identify or contact the child."

Since Stack Exchange, during the registration process, allows users to enter their name, email address, and website URLs where other users might be able to contact the user, Stack Exchange is legally obligated to follow this law.

Other options

Note that you don't have to be 13 to use the site, only to subscribe. If you never fill out the registration info then you will not be restricted from using the site. You have to deal with the lack of reputation gain if you switch computers or the cookies are cleared often, but if you consistently use the same name and email, then when you do turn thirteen and register you can have a mod combine all the previous anonymous posts. Technically there is an issue of providing your email address being in violation with COPPA, but if you use your parent's email address for your posts, then you will be in the clear, as you will not be providing the website a way to contact you directly. You can ask your parents to forward any stack exchange email to your personal account as they deem necessary, and then you will also be in full compliance with the site's terms and conditions.

If you want to change it without doing one of the above you'll need to do one of the following:

  • Get Stack Overflow to accept parental/guardian permission for individual accounts (as long as the parent agrees, COPPA allows websites to collect such information)
  • Lobby the US Congress to change COPPA to allow your usage of the site
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If I read it correctly, it should be sufficient to let anyone over 13 set up an account and give you access to it. As long as the personal information of the younger person is not added to the account before reaching 13. –  Dennis Jaheruddin Feb 14 '14 at 9:12

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