Neptune Navigate Blog

Tips for online safety, security, and responsible digital citizenship for parents, kids, and families.

A Step In The Right Direction

October 8, 2021

Unless you don’t have a preteen or teenager living in your home, then you are probably aware of an online game called Fortnite.  Fortnite was created by Epic Games which is responsible for the creation of NBA2K, Star Wars Battlefront II, and many other popular online games as well.  While I’m not a huge fan of some of the games they create, what I discovered today has definitely made me a fan of the company.  Epic Games announced that it will be making its parent verification services free for all developers.  You may be wondering why that’s such a big deal.  Let me explain.  You see, for every website or online service, you have to sign in and give personal information in order to create an account.  That information is then often sold to other companies without your knowledge or permission.  The Federal Trade Commission implemented the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act as a means to help protect children under the age of 13 from having their personal information collected and shared without their parents’ consent.  Basically, COPPA was created to put parents in control over what information is collected from their children online.  Unfortunately, we all know there are many ways to work around something that stands in the way of what you want, and kids are geniuses at finding them. So if a 12 year old wants to sign up for a game or social media account and the restrictions say they have to be at least 17 years old or they must have parental consent,  all they have to do is lie about their age or who they are when they create their account.  This has led to children who are not emotionally and mentally mature enough to play games or be on websites that have content which is totally unsuitable for their age.  It seems that one of the reasons developers don’t do more to protect their young users is because it just isn’t cost effective.  Yes, it seems to always go back to the dollar. It’s just too expensive to do the right thing and verify the identity of a user. And that is why the decision by Epic Games to offer their Kids Web Services free of charge to developers is a huge step in the right direction.  As CEO of Epic Games, Todd Sweeney, stated, “By making KWS parent verification free we hope to enable more developers to create safer digital experiences, while empowering parents to  make the choices that are right for their families.”  So, anyone interested in a game of Fortnite?