Many kids under 13 are finding themselves locked out of their email accounts after trying to register for Google+
Over the weekend my friend's email account was shut down by Google. He can't access anything that's there -- his contacts, any Google Docs, old emails, nothing.
Because he's 10. Gabriel is the son of two of my closest friends, and they have always encouraged him and his sister to communicate with adults and friends over email. But according to Google's policy, only people 13 and older and have Google accounts. He has asked me not to use his last name in this article.
Here's what happened: Gabriel's dad invited him to join Google+. The first time you log in to Google+, one of the forms asks you for your age. Gabriel asked his dad whether he should respond honestly and his dad said, sure, why not. The next thing they knew, Gabriel was frozen out of his account and given a 30-day window to prove that he is over 13.
As Google+ has slowly rolled out, this has happened to many kids who have been using Gmail, some for years. (Gmail does ask for a birthdate when you sign up for an account, but they have not always done so, so accounts either predate that question or were set up with false information.) Gmail's help forums are crowded with upset parents and kids who can't access their accounts. One kid wrote:
Iʻm only 10 years old. I have been using Gmail since I was 7, and I did not lie about my age. It did not ask anyway. I tried to sign up with Google+, but then it blocked me. I quit out in the "re-enter page" (government ID or $0.30 on a credit card, with the money I would repay my mom) and now I canʻt get back in. My contacts, buzz, and all emails cannot be accessed because of Google+. I even got in Pottermore, and I am waiting for my access email to the beta site, but now I cannot because I am blocked.
But it's more than Pottermore access that's affected. There are two aspects of this that are particularly infuriating: The first is being shut off from writing and photos that you have created -- the archives of email conversations with grandparents and the stories kids have written on Google Docs, for examples. Google could at least rectify this problem by allowing people one last chance to access and download their data. Google has said in its forums that it is "actively investigating" this option.