In 1998, the Children Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) passed. Websites cannot knowingly collect information from persons 12 and under without parental permission. Message boards have subsequently required users to state they are over thirteen years of age and/or have a parent sign and fax their permission.
However, most forums don't usually get parental permission, figuring that it is too much of a hassle. GameFAQs and GameSpot have taken the first route, requiring that registered users be at least 13 years old. A user who younger then 13 is considered "underage" and will be banned if they admit that they are underage.
CJayC traditionally has been lenient when it comes to underage bannings. He will immediately ban if there is any proof, but has been equally fair to unban. For instance, he unbanned GameQueen when she turned thirteen. He has also allowed banned users to submit proof that they are thirteen and over so he can overturn the banning. The system was improved when the Feedback system was introduced, allowing users to formally submit their plea to be unbanned.
On September 9, 2010, the user level Blocked was added. Previously, any underage claim would always result in a banning. Users now claiming to be underage are placed into the Blocked level and have two months to provide proof that are 13 or above before the account in question is automatically closed.
Because Underage User is a guaranteed ban, it is one of the easier methods of an account suicide, although its lack of style is made it unpopular. However, because the Underage rule is so well-known, any user who intentionally or unintentionally states that they are under 13 years of age is usually given multiple "banned" replies from other users, coining the phrase "Underage User Alert", or UUA.
The phrase also tends to be used against users making very unbelievable statements or general immaturity. In the unbelievable area, someone claiming they have never played Super Mario Bros. would yield "Underage User Alert" posts. Someone with very poor grammar and spelling will likely be branded as an "Underage User Alert" as well. This tends to be moderated for trolling.
For reasons unclear, GameFAQs users from time to time feel the need to falsely claim that they are under the age of 13. This also results in bans, although a user thus banned has an option to get their account back by providing proof of their real age (through some sort of ID) through the site's feedback system.
However, users who test the system should beware: they will be banned for long periods of time. CJayC has said that age proofs are one of his lowest priorities, so unbannings can take up to two months. Also, due to various glitches, if the ban gets overturned, the moderation stays on the moderation history of the account indefinitely.
In order for a user to be banned for Underage User, a message on GameFAQs must specifically state that they are under 13 years of age or otherwise imply that they are under 13 years old. For example:
- "i'm only 12 but i like this game" = BANNED
- "I was 5 years old when GTA: San Andreas was released" = BANNED, assuming that the release of GTA:SA was less than 8 years ago
- "I'd go out, but I'm underage" = NOT BANNED
Note that, as in the last example, "Underage" by itself could pertain to different underage clauses, such as the legal age for buying alcohol or tobacco, marriage or consent. Without a context, "I'm underage" does not warrant a banning.
Occasionally there have been errors with ambigious contexts. For example, if a topic is asking about a user's character level in a game, a user might reply "I'm 10." Out of its context, the message appears to be a blatant underage admission. Most moderators check the topic for context before taking action, although mistakes have been made. The site's administrators usually catch the error and overturn the suspension.
Obvious jokes (For example, saying: "I'm a month old!") usually do not warrant bannings, but will usually earn the offender a Warning for trolling.
Changes in Underage policy
The Underage rule has not changed at all throughout the history of the Terms of Service, although enforcement of the rule is more stringent today than it was years ago.
There is one curious clause that was included in the Underage rule: users were not permitted to ask other users about their age. Doing so would result in the message being moderated. This rule has long since been abolished.
- Full text of the Children Online Privacy Protection Act
- "I was banned for falsely claiming I was under 13 years old." — GameFAQs feedback ticket for users to appeal underage bannings.