Businesses face a difficult situation with minors using the internet. They want to make their sites accessible to everyone, but also want the legal protection of contracts like Terms and Conditions agreements.
There are a few different ways that a company might want to restrict who can use their websites. Often, websites only allow those over 18 to use them because only those people can agree to the Terms and Conditions agreement. If they do allow people under 18 to access a site, they require a parent or guardian's permission before the minor can use it.
However, things get a little more complicated with privacy laws like COPPA. COPPA controls how companies can store and use the data of users under 13 years old, which can present challenges for site owners and administrators. For that reason, some websites only allow people over 13 to use the site and its services.
Other websites sell or promote products with specific age restrictions, like alcohol and tobacco. In these cases, sites don't allow anyone who cannot purchase that product to use the website.
Because of all these complications, it's important that you read this article carefully and figure out what age limitation might be appropriate for your own site.
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- 1. What are Age Limitations in Terms and Conditions Agreements?
- 2. Why Have an Age Limitation in a Terms and Conditions Agreement?
- 3. Why Can't Minors Agree to a Terms and Conditions Agreement?
- 4. How Do You Write an Age Limitation Clause?
- 4.1. Allow Users Aged 18 and Above
- 4.2. Allow Minors with Parent/Guardian Permission
- 4.3. Allow Users 13 and Older
- 4.4. Allow Users Above the Drinking Age
- 5. Summary
What are Age Limitations in Terms and Conditions Agreements?
Some websites limit the ages of people who can use the site or service, or put additional requirements for people of certain ages to use it. This is called an age limitation, and it's typically included as a separate clause in the site's Terms and Conditions agreement.
There are different ways that a clause like this might restrict the ages of users. For example, some sites restrict users to only those 18 years and older. That's because the age of majority in most countries is 18, which means that the users can agree to a contract without needing parental permission.
Other sites allow users to be under 18 but include additional restrictions on those users. For example, they might require parental consent in order to be used by minors. They might also restrict use by people under the age of 13, or other ages below 18. This depends on the content of the site, the kind of data collection the site uses, and what laws apply to the site and its users.
Why Have an Age Limitation in a Terms and Conditions Agreement?
Age limitation allows websites to make sure that the people using the site are able to agree to contracts like Terms and Conditions agreements. If you restrict your site to only allow those above the age of majority to use it, you can be more certain that your users will all be legally able to agree to your Terms and Conditions agreement.
Your Terms and Conditions agreement is a valuable piece of protection for you. It establishes the rules between you and your users, and it prevents you from being held liable for the actions of people who break those rules. For example, if a user spreads malware using your website, the Terms and Conditions agreement would protect you from being held liable for any harm caused.
However, you could be in trouble if the person spreading malware is a minor. They couldn't agree to your Terms and Conditions, so the same rules might not apply. All this is prevented by an Age Limitation Clause. A clause like this prevents people who can't be held to the Terms and Conditions from using your site in the first place.
Of course, it's possible that a minor would still use your site despite not being allowed to. In that case, they would be in violation of your Age Limitation Clause, and that would still provide a layer of protection in the situation that they used your website to do something nefarious. The clause both prevents minors from using the site and protects you in the case that they do.
Even if you get a parent or guardian's permission to use a website, you could still face some challenges with allowing minors to use your website. For example, the American law COPPA restricts how websites can collect the data of users under the age of 13. For that reason, many websites only allow people aged 13 or older to use them.
Why Can't Minors Agree to a Terms and Conditions Agreement?
A person is a minor if they haven't reached the minimum age to enter a legally binding agreement. That age is called the "age of majority" and shouldn't be confused with other legally significant ages, such as the drinking age or the age that a person can drive. Until a person is the age of majority, they cannot create a contract and can void any contract they enter.
Instead, the minor's parent or guardian can enter or create a contract on that person's behalf. This is why websites that do allow users to be minors require a parent or guardian's permission before they can use the site. That type of agreement is much more difficult for the user to void and allows you to feel the protections that would normally apply from your Terms and Conditions agreement.
How Do You Write an Age Limitation Clause?
While most Age Limitation Clauses are short and simple, it's important to carefully construct the clause to restrict users' ages in the way you want. There are a number of different ways that you may want to restrict the ages of your users, so you should read each of these examples to help you figure out which would apply best to your case.
Allow Users Aged 18 and Above
One of the most common age limitations is to only allow users at or above the age of 18. This can be very simple, but you should still make sure that it has all the necessary components. For example, you may want to include that users should both be over the age of 18 and meet all other requirements to agree to a contract, such as mental capacity. This makes the clause more likely to cover any potential complications.
A good but simple example of this type of clause is in the Alpenrose Dairy website's Terms of Service. The clause states that only people above the age of 18 can use the website. It also makes sure that even among that group, users must be capable of entering into the contract:
Allow Minors with Parent/Guardian Permission
Things get a little more complicated if you want to allow minors to use your website. If you want your Terms and Conditions agreement to retain its legal effect, you should make sure that minors using the website are only doing so with the permission of their parents.
Of course, there are other ways that a person might be unable to enter into a contract, so you might want to include language that applies the same rules to those users.
For example, instead of creating an explicit age limitation, you can restrict the use of your site to people who have the capacity to enter a contract. If you do that, it applies the rule to minors as well as other people who can void any contract they enter for other reasons. Then, you can require parent or guardian permission for minors and others without legal capacity to enter a contract.
That's the route that the Cartoon Network Terms of Service takes. It allows people to use the site if they fit either of two conditions: that they are capable of entering a legally binding contract, or that they have the consent of a parent or guardian to use the site:
Although it gives the example of a minor as someone who would need a parent or guardian's permission, the clause actually applies to others as well.
Allow Users 13 and Older
Because of laws like the U.S.'s COPPA, you might want to restrict the use of your site to people 13 years or older. If that's the case, your Terms and Conditions agreement should have an Age Limitation Clause that covers restrictions on use for people under 13, what permission people between 13 and 18 need, and use for people 18 and older.
Of course you should say that people over 18 can use the site, but you should also state that people between 13 and 18 need a parent or guardian's permission to use the site. You may want to include phrasing here that addresses the parent or guardian and makes sure they understand that they are giving the minor permission to use the site and that they won't hold you responsible for any potential harms that may happen.
Lastly, you'll also need to explicitly forbid people under 13 from using the site. If you're doing this because of privacy laws like COPPA, it might be a good idea to also specify that people under 13 cannot submit any information to the site, which means you can be certain you won't have any data from those people and don't need to worry about those privacy laws.
Allow Users Above the Drinking Age
Most countries restrict the sale of alcohol to people below a certain age. This can be different from the age of majority. For example, in most of the United States the age of majority is 18 while the drinking age is 21. Websites that sell alcoholic beverages have to be careful of who their users are, so they often prohibit anyone under the drinking age from using their sites.
Because your site might be accessed from around the world, you might want to forgo an explicit age restriction in this clause. Instead, you could restrict use to only those people who meet their location's drinking age. However, you should be careful if you take this option because in some countries the drinking age is below the age of majority.
For example, 16-year-olds can drink beer in Germany but don't reach the age of majority until 18. To account for these cases, you need to decide whether you will allow these minors to use your website. If you do allow them to access it, you should require parental permission for the same reasons already given above. But many sites choose to allow only people aged 18 and over to use their sites, even if younger people can purchase alcohol.
That's the approach that Molson Coors takes with its site's Terms and Conditions of Use. People using the site must be their location's drinking age in order to access the site, and nobody under 18 can use it. It takes the additional step of restricting users who meet the age requirements from sharing the site or its content with minors, which further protects the site's owners.
An Age Limitation Clause is an important part of a Terms and Conditions agreement. It can save you from liability if someone who cannot enter a contract or purchase your products uses your website in a way they shouldn't.
When you put together your Age Limitation Clause, you should consider what kind of restriction you want to include:
- Allow users over 18
- Allow minors to use the site with a parent or guardian's permission
- Allow users over 13
- Allow users above the drinking age