Over two and a half decades being a computer and internet enthusiast there have been times when a major problem has suddenly happened. Sometimes it was forgotten passwords, others it was losing decades of data etc. Yesterday I had one of those issues and although it may seem minor to non computer/internet geeks it was a major crisis for my son and I.
*Legal Disclaimer: My boys are over 13 years old and always have been.
Here is a bit of background. Everyone in my house has their own Google account and have for years. The main reason my boys do is I encourage them to take pictures and videos on their phones and like to have those pictures/videos upload automatically to Google Photos. I’m thinking in terms of decades and I think it would be awesome for them to be able to look back at not only pictures the adults have taken but their own pictures and videos as well. That media represents the world through their eyes and to me is absolute treasure.
Another reason I like them to have their own accounts is for the e-mail. That wasn’t important before the pandemic but it is now. I want my eldest to be able to read messages from his teacher and respond on his own. This is part of him learning his way around a computer. At a young age he should be able to work on the computer/internet better than even his own teachers and he has learned!
Finally, I want him to have access to Youtube under his own personal account. If he wants to learn something, whether it is gaming related or school related I want him to be able to go to Youtube, make lists, subscribe to channels etc. This is all part of learning his way around the internet and the internet is not only the future, it is here.
Side note: The schools set up accounts to be used for Google Classrooms etc but like most things school related come with a TON of restrictions that while they do protect they also inhibit learning. Schools form their policies and regulations with the lowest common denominator in mind. By this I mean troublesome kids and parents who like to sue and cause other issues. So accounts given by the school are completely locked down and allow for nothing outside of school or anything that could even remotely cause a problem or give parents something to complain about.
So here is what happened.
I thought about installing Google Fit on my son’s iPad and connecting Fitbit, Renpho, and maybe even our exercises on the Nintendo Switch if that were possible? I downloaded Google Fit onto my son’s iPad and in setting it up it asked for his age. I put in *an age* and all of a sudden it asked me to confirm said *age.* I did and it immediately switched to a child account and there was a message a parent would have to link to it our it would be deleted in 14 days.
There are years of my son’s own pictures/videos in that account, 60 YouTube videos, an endless list of subscriptions, his main e-mail, location tracking showing the adventures we went on in Google Maps (great for teaching him geography!). So deleting the account and making a new was not an option.
I tried changing his birth date to over 13 but it asked for validation like a credit card. I didn’t want to do that in case there was a name check because if there was I’d just be digging myself further into a hole.
OK I thought, I’ll just connect my account and give him access to everything. Maybe it would be a benefit since I’d have more control over his account? Wrong! A child account only gets access to YouTube kids and cannot have their own YouTube channel! Wow, I had just stumbled into a way to make my child not like me very much and right before Christmas too!
Once our accounts were connected I installed the Google Family App on my phone and tried to change his birth date from there. Nope. All birth dates have to be younger than 13.
That gave me an idea. What if I put his birthday as tomorrow would that work? I was a bit nervous because Google says if they suspect a child is using an adult account it will be locked and deleted. I went ahead and set the birth date for the next day (today). This bothered me so much I woke up at 1:00 AM, couldn’t fall back asleep and went to see if it had auto updated. I turned on my son’s computer and was sad to see nothing had changed. So it was back into the forums and I learned that we should receive an e-mail from Google with instructions on how to remove the child restrictions if the child wished. Well, no e-mail and I wondered if we would ever get one especially since the birth date was changed the day before.
I was in a panic and even thought about going into chat with Google to see if they could help. I’m a Google One subscriber so get special attention. I had the page open but then thought better of it. The person in the chat wouldn’t be able to give any special favors and I again I might dig myself into an even deeper hole that I really couldn’t get out of.
So after another 20 minutes of absolute panic and reading the forums I found what I needed. It was the link that is in the e-mail Google sends to the parent and child a few days before turning 13. I clicked on the link and they system worked as intended. His age was now officially 13 in their systems and so he could take control of his own account.
I think in this age of pandemic access without a bunch of restrictions is absolutely necessary. The reason those restrictions are in place is because of laws that say Google cannot track those younger than 13. Well, you need to have your data tracked to some extent to use the personalized services! For an internet nerd like me, I like to have my son take full advantage of Google services (our smart home even responds to him individually in his preferred Google voice) and not be so restricted. Furthermore, 12 is much too old for only access to Google Kids. And if your kid is a big gamer than Youtube is absolutely necessary! I think protecting the kid is a secondary thought to Google as the app isn’t very robust and like kid monitoring software everywhere causes a lot of headaches.
Now I do understand the benefits of monitoring software to restrict access and think I’m a huge outsider here. The masses aren’t very good with technology and the internet can be a dangerous place. Furthermore kids can easily get into trouble and especially on the internet. For me however, I can restrict on the router side which is much more simple and causes less headache. You install child monitoring software it can be very hard to get yourself out of it. It is like jail for both adult and kid! Do it on the server side and you’re able to open and close the gate completely. Not leave it open and try to protect each individual device, account and so on with headache causing crap.