How do age-restricted websites keep underage users off their sites?
In the past, age gating was used to prevent underage users from accessing age-restricted content. However, age gates are generally ineffective. Today, more businesses are turning to true online age verification systems to meet compliance.
What’s the difference between age gating and age verification?
Simply stated, age gating uses a checkbox system and asks a user if they’re the correct age. Age verification, on the other hand, offers a more comprehensive approach, and requires users to prove they are a certain age (often by verifying documents online).
Let’s take a closer look so you can understand the key differences, as well as ways businesses stay ahead of the curve in online age verification.
What Is Age Gating?
Age gating is used to restrict access to certain content or features on a website. Its main purpose is to keep minors from seeing or interacting with content that isn’t appropriate for their age group. This includes things like explicit material, mature video games, or content related to alcohol.
These systems typically require:
- Birthdate Verification: Age gating usually means users have to enter their birthdate to confirm their age. This method is widely used on websites selling age-restricted products like alcohol or tobacco.
- Checkbox Confirmation: Some websites utilize a checkbox confirmation system where users need to confirm that they are of a certain age or older to access particular content.
Ultimately, age gating is less secure as users can easily bypass it by lying about their age. This ineffectiveness is a primary reason why many states have established age restriction laws for pornography websites.
While it serves as a reasonable protective measure, age gating does have limitations. For instance, it relies heavily on user honesty, and it’s easily manipulated. To address these shortcomings, online platforms often consider more robust solutions, like age verification.
Age Verification: A Deeper Dive
Age verification goes beyond the basic birthdate checks seen in age gating. It involves the use of more advanced methods to confirm a user’s age, typically with a higher degree of accuracy and security.
Advanced Age Verification Methods
- Document Verification: Some online platforms require users to upload official identification documents for verification, such as driver’s licenses or passports, to verify their age. This method is highly accurate but may raise privacy concerns.
- Biometric Authentication: In some cases, we can use biometric data, like facial recognition, to verify a user’s age. This approach offers a secure and user-friendly way to confirm age.
- Third-Party Age Verification Services: Many websites partner with specialized age verification services that have access to age-related databases and can confirm a user’s age more reliably.
Key Differences Between Age Gating and Age Verification
While both age gating and age verification aim to restrict access to age-restricted content, they differ significantly in terms of their methods and effectiveness. Here are five key differences between the two:
1. Method of Age Confirmation
- Age Gating: It primarily relies on user-provided information, such as inputting their birthdate or checking a checkbox. It places the responsibility on the user to provide accurate information.
- Age Verification: Age verification uses more advanced methods, such as document verification, biometric authentication, or third-party services, to confirm a user’s age. This results in a higher degree of accuracy and reduces the likelihood of users providing false information.
- Age Gating: Users can generally bypass it easily by providing false birthdates or checkboxes without any real verification, making it less secure.
- Age Verification: Age verification offers a higher level of security, especially when using advanced methods like document verification or biometrics. It makes it significantly more challenging for users to misrepresent their age.
- Age Gating: It is commonly used for websites that offer age-restricted products, like alcohol or tobacco, and for content that requires a basic level of age confirmation.
- Age Verification: Age verification is often employed for websites or services where a higher level of age accuracy is essential, such as online gambling, adult content, or purchasing firearms.
4. Privacy Concerns
- Age Gating: When limited to basic birthdate checks, it tends to raise fewer privacy concerns since it doesn’t require users to share sensitive identification documents or biometric data.
- Age Verification: Some forms of age verification, especially those involving document submission, may raise privacy concerns due to the collection and storage of sensitive personal information.
5. Accuracy and Legal Compliance
- Age Gating: It may not always meet the legal requirements for age verification, especially in industries with strict age restrictions like gambling or alcohol sales.
- Age Verification: Age verification methods are more likely to align with legal requirements, ensuring compliance with regulations in highly regulated industries.
Strategies for Age Checking Online
When it comes to online age checking, businesses can employ different strategies depending on the nature of the content or service. Here are some common approaches:
- Tiered Access: Implement a tiered access system where different levels of content or features are available to users of different age groups. This allows for flexibility while ensuring that unsuitable content remains inaccessible to minors.
- Combining Age Gating and Age Verification: Some platforms choose to use a combination of both age gating and age verification. Users may initially face age gating, with the option to undergo age verification for access to more mature content.
- Clear Age Disclaimers: Regardless of the age-checking method used, it’s crucial to display clear age disclaimers outlining the reasons for age restrictions and the potential consequences of providing false information.
Striking a balance between providing age-appropriate content and respecting user privacy is essential. Age gating and age verification are critical tools in this endeavor, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.
Ultimately, when considering age-checking strategies online, platforms should carefully evaluate the nature of their content and the level of security required. This is where FTx Identity can play a vital role. By partnering with FTx Identity, platforms can enhance their age verification processes and ensure compliance with legal requirements.