I have been doing some preparation for a talk I am giving to parents at a school this evening and one of the services I am going to chat about is the popular messaging service, MXit. I came across this wording in MXit’s terms and conditions which struck me as somewhat odd:
Unless otherwise stated by MXit in writing, you must be at least 13 (thirteen) years old to make use of the MXit Application, the MXit Websites and the Services. If you are 17 (seventeen) years and younger, but older than 13 (thirteen), you will inform your parents or guardians that you have registered for and are using the Services of MXit and upon request provide reasonable proof that you have complied with this prerequisite for access to the MXit Application and the Services.
Bearing in mind that MXit is popular with teenagers as young as 13 (officially – Mxit, like many social services, is not technically available to children younger than 13), the language used in the phrase “upon request provide reasonable proof that you have complied with this prerequisite for access to the MXit Application and the Services” is not very appropriate given the likely level of comprehension children that age will have. These terms probably don’t meet the Consumer Protection Act’s plain language requirements either, given the context.
While MXit’s terms and conditions inspired this post, I doubt MXit is the only service that has made the mistake of using overly lawyerly jargon in a document which children are, theoretically, going to read and agree with (this is a problematic assumption, complicated by children’s limited contractual capacity) before using the service. Enforcing website terms and conditions against children will probably prove to be somewhat challenging and language like this doesn’t help at all. Providers should make more of an effort to simplify their language in their terms and conditions both to better comply with the Consumer Protection Act’s plain language requirements and improve usability generally.