I’m not going to say that this happened to my family, because of course I would know better — and communicate better with my kid. Let’s say it happened to a very, very similar family. One where the not-yet-thirteen-years-old elder child made the minor tactical error of informing Google that indeed, not-yet-thirteen is her/his age.
The results, as you might expect, were something like this. Account suspension, 30-day memory hole countdown, and general panic. Now, within 24 hours this family had figured out the same thing the Sutherlands did: the Google account age verification process costs you only 30 cents and your personal integrity. It forces you to tell a teensy white lie to preserve a child’s online existence.
This similar family didn’t want to be put in this situation — and indeed, could have avoided it by steering clear of Google’s ecosystem. But with Apps for Education and a child who has wholeheartedly embraced the Google cloud, it seems counterproductive to walk the chains backward due to policies that don’t account for mature kids or responsible parents.
COPPA may be a good law or a bad law, but it’s an inflexible law. Google, and other cloud providers, should work with parents and legislators to come up with a mode of compliance that doesn’t throw the files out with the young bathwater.