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Google Made My Daughter Cry


Remember that Google commercial, where the dad is writing emails to his child who was just born? Total bullshit. Here’s why.

My kids have had Gmail addresses since they were born – yeah I had that idea long before that commercial came out. I got them so I could send emails, advice, pictures and things, but also so that my children would have easy-to-remember email addresses. They’ve made these email addresses their Apple ID’s too, so they could use iMessage and FaceTime with their friends.

Earlier this year, I gave my oldest, now 9, an old Google Chromebook – a CR-48 unit, the first generation of Chromebook that never made it to the public. It’s the perfect computer for her; she gets email, web, chat, and it’s nearly maintenance-free because it does everything in the cloud. The Chromebook requires that she sign in with her Google account — her Gmail account.

Today, my daughter tried logging in and it asked her for her birthday. Now, I’ve always taught my children to never give information away, but she was in a hurry and entered her birthday. Then she got a surprise.

“Your account has been disabled because you do not meet the age requirements for Google Services. This account will be deleted within 25 days unless you made a mistake entering your birthday and can verify that you are over 13 years of age.”

Then it gave a few options to verify: use a credit card (charging you 30 cents), email or fax a copy of a government ID.

My daughter cried. She’s been using that Gmail account to talk to family, teachers, friends, and friends that have moved back to Germany. This also would mean her Chromebook would become unusable.

Thanks, Google.


Google’s Terms of Service NEVER said anything about a minimum age. In fact, their sign up page used to say “Now everyone in the World can sign up for Gmail!” This is some new policy they’re rolling out.

Well, I found a workaround:

  1. Log into the suspended account.
  2. When you receive the account suspended notification, click on the option to reinstate via credit card.
  3. Enter YOUR date of birth. (older than 18 – not 13)
  4. Enter billing details and confirm, providing YOUR email
  5. Wait on the page until you are given confirmation that the account has been reinstated.
  6. Log in again.

The page said it may take up to 15 minutes. When I did this, it worked right away.

I’m very, very close to moving all my family’s email accounts off Google.


14 comments on “Google Made My Daughter Cry

    • Matt Hovey
      December 7, 2013

      If you read that a little more closely, you’ll see that nowhere in that legislation does it say that children under 13 are not allowed to have accounts for online services (like email). It does provide additional rules and restrictions for how those accounts are created and the personal info that can be gathered from them. The law is not making Google do this.

      • Bob
        December 7, 2013

        Yeah, but as you probably know, Google collects all sorts of data from its users, and because she is under 13, this is illegal according to that Act. Rather than them disabling data collection from users under 13, it’s easier for them to just say that people under 13 can’t use their services.

      • Sean
        December 7, 2013

        It makes compliance tricky, that is why Google (and others) try to avoid it altogether. There was some talk about how to properly implement the ‘paternal permission’ provision, and what sort of data would be allowed to be collected as even the sort of data that is required to run the service like processing inbound and outbound messages to identify and filter spam for example, can get you in a gray area. It’s a silly overprotective law that was hastily passed and you’re feeling the ramifications.

  1. Cynic
    December 7, 2013

    > I’m very, very close to moving all my family’s email accounts off Google.

    Yeah, right. Very close, but never quite there yet, are you?

    • Matt Hovey
      December 7, 2013

      Sadly, no. It’s very hard to make the move when so much of our online identity is tied to Google. But one of these days…! (shaking stick at kids on lawn).

    • Pawsy
      December 7, 2013

      I moved away from using gmail and I am happier for it.

  2. CodeMunki9
    December 7, 2013

    Don’t do it (i.e. move off Google). Despite the fact that this was an upsetting experience, you at least got through it with accounts intact. Members of my family and close friends have lost 100’s of dollars worth of Xbox games and years worth of personal data when their Hotmail/Windows Live accounts got locked out for random reasons and nothing they could do got it back. Google may have it’s own issues but it is spades better than the clowns at Microsoft. (Just an aside: I do NOT work for Google and I USED to work for Microsoft!).

  3. jamesplotts
    December 8, 2013

    You might also find this article interesting:

  4. Ron
    December 8, 2013

    I think it’s unfortunate that your daughter was upset but I can understand that because Google is a great vehicle for communicating it is also used to PREY on unsuspecting children like your daughter , so is the entire internet for that matter.

    So please don’t be to harsh on Google or any company wanting to prevent class action lawsuits against them, shareholders would categorize this as proper governance or some buzz word like that.

  5. Matt Hovey
    December 8, 2013

    McDonald’s was also told they couldn’t market to young kids anymore. They didn’t start banning kids under 13 from their restaurants. Google took the low road here, any way you look at it.

    • Theodore Ts'o
      December 8, 2013

      McDonald’s wasn’t told that if a child mentions their name (maybe she wanders in with a nametag from a church or girl scout or whatever function which says, “Hi, my name is Sandy!”) that all of their personnel aren’t allowed to look at that nametag, even accidentally (after all, that might be considered collection of PII) without first getting parental consent.

      If there was a law passed which tried to be over-protective of children, such that some number of restaurants (maybe not McDonald’s, but maybe Olive Garden and Red Lobster and Panera Bread) said, “F*** it, it’s not worth the compliance costs and the risk of getting hit with a $16,000 per day per child fine”, and it wasn’t just one restaurant deciding it wasn’t worth the risk, but multiple restaurants, such that the only restaurants that would knowingly accept children as customers were places such as Chuck-E-Cheese, maybe you would blame the silly law, instead of restaurants that decided they would rather forgo the business of having children in their restaurants, since that was cheaper and less risky than trying to comply with the “think of the children!” law?

  6. hamishmcn
    December 8, 2013

    I wish I had known about the work around a few months ago.
    I had the same experience – my daughter and son were locked out of their email accounts with no chance to extract their existing email or get unread messages.
    Due to the time the has passed the accounts have been deleted and the email addresses can not be reused so are gone forever.
    Google could have done a much better job at this, eg: allow the users a last chance to export their existing mail, and just suspending the account til the user turns 13 – which is less than a year away for my daughter

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Anything Matt Hovey publishes online is his own personal opinion and does not reflect the opinion of his employers.
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