Children's Online Gaming--Anything but Childish

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In response to reading Grimes' article, "Terms of Service and Terms of Playing Children's Online Gaming, I feel rather appalled, because of the extent at which marketing companies are taking advantage of children.

I honestly couldn't tell you the last time I read and understood a TOS agreement. I'll admit that I'm actually guilty of just pressing "I agree" without reading any of the information. I do remember, however, when I was younger and wanted to play Neopets. In order for me to access the entire site, I had to print out a TOS form for my mom to read, sign, and then either mail or fax to Neopets. That's probably the only time I've ever actually spent more than a few seconds on a TOS page.

I really don't see how a kid would understand the TOS of any site, let alone one from myuville, as Susan suggests. Even if a kid did understand everything they were potentially agreeing to, I doubt any child would have the attention span to read the whole document. Why would they want to waste time reading this boring bunch of text when they could be playing.

I don't really know how I feel about the ownership issue. Part of me feels like I should have a right to claim my own property, but at the same time I understand that these companies need to make their money some way. As for kids, it's just wrong to take advantage of them to this extent. I don't see a problem with learning from what they enjoy playing, but owning all of their online content seems like overkill to me.

I do think that a TOS contract would hold up in court. All the company needs to say is, "well you agreed to it, didn't you?" Whose fault is it if you didn't read all of the terms of agreement before clicking that little button? Sure it might seem unfair, but this isn't the first time a company found a way to exploit its potential consumers.

Although it might seem wrong for marketers to target children, they're really smart in doing so. It becomes a problem, however, when the kids do not need to hit "accept" or "agree" when they visit a website, because they and their parents have no clue that their innocent game play is being used by large companies. 

After reading this article, I'm not sure I'll ever look at the online gaming community the same again.


Jeremy Barrick said:

Children don't take the time to read the documents. They just want to endulge in whatever medium they are using. Like I said in my blog, I didn't read a TOS document, and paid the ultimate price. That's what they are there for. A company has to protect itself from the public however possible.

Beth Anne Swartzwelder said:

I thought that the TOS agreement for Neopets that you mentioned was particularly interesting. I haven't heard of one that you have to print out and mail in. I guess that forced your parents to take a closer look at it? I guess that no sites do this because it takes too much time to get their gamers in and playing.

Susan Carmichael said:

Thank you for sharing your Neopets experience. My question is did you mom actually read the contract herself before signing or did she just sign it because you asked? I agree that adult TOS contracts might hold up in court, but I do not think that they should for children under a certain age. There is just no way that they can fully comprehend all of the information presented in the TOS contract.

Jessie Author Profile Page said:

The thing about the Neopets site was, you could still do a lot of stuff on the website without the parental consent form signed. You could still play games and interact with your pets and the shops and stuff, but if you signed that form you had a lot more possibilities in the Neopets world.
To answer your question Susan, I'm not sure if my mom did read the contract. She did ask me what it was for, because she's always been really strict about internet privacy--I didn't even have a Facebook until after I turned 18--so I'm sure she at least looked over it to make sure it was safe. I'm pretty sure the form asked for your address too, but I never got anything in the mail from Neopets so I don't think they really used it for anything.

Susan Carmichael said:

Jessie, I had to laugh about your comment that you didn't even have a Facebook account until after you turned 18 because Facebook was not around when I was 18! How sad is that? Anyways, I think that your mom was great in limiting your internet use. More parents should exhibit that responsibility. You mentioned that the form probably asked for an address; I bet that they used your information for marketing research. In return, you obtained access to more gaming online but nothing through the mail.

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