Online Gaming Contracts for Children (Grimes)

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Sara M. Grime's article offers an in-depth look at existing Terms of Service (TOS) contracts for several children online gaming sites and compares them to existing laws and policies relating to children.  Grimes found that families with children remain among the fastest growing demographics of internet users.  These children are online cultural producers and often the direct target of marketing research through brand-specific gaming sites, most of which require players to read and agree to a TOS contract.  The majority of TOS contracts contained advanced legalese.  Some advised children to read the TOS, which varied in length from 3-12 pages, with a parent, and even fewer offered a children-friendly version.  Furthermore, Grimes questions whether it is reasonable to expect children to have the knowledge required to understand the implications of TOS contracts and whether current laws even allow children to enter into such agreements.

1. Grimes states that only a few adults actually pay attention to contents of TOS contracts.  Do you always read and fully understand TOS contracts for adult online gaming sites, and what is your reasoning for either way?

2. Do you think that a child would understand the following example from MyUville?

3. What is your position in the ownership of players' virtual property debate? (E.g. do you think that players should have partial or co-ownership over player-generated creations, or is the industry entitled to sole ownership based on the fact that they own the game code?)  Does your view change or stay the same regarding children?

4. Do you think that if challenged TOS contracts hold up in court?

5. What are some of the ethical implications of conducting marketing research without first establishing informed consent, particularly when the participants are children?

The following news article by Chris Soghoian looks at some popular sites' (Google, Facebook, and MySpace) TOS age requirements.  Most require users to be of a certain age, but the sites do not enforce or even verify their users' ages.  Furthermore, some of the sites offer children-friendly promotions.  The article is not academic research; however, it does demonstrate the confusion and conflict surrounding the issue.


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