Terms of Use, Readability, and Digital Kids

Check the terms of use readability level at your favorite sites.

Just about every time I head over to iTunes to purchase something, I’m all set to finish up when the site diverts me to a change in the terms of use. It happens at lots of sites.  And each time I click to look at a site’s terms of use, it’s a longer document — 40 pages, 41, 42… Now I don’t object to changes or even insisting that users check things out, but terms of use are abstract and arcane and not especially easy to read or even understand.

I’ve always thought it would be an interesting conversation topic for parents and kids — taking a few minutes to look at those terms of use statements that most people accept and go right by, and helping children discover a bit about the fine print.

About eight months ago, I read a posting about terms of use documents, C’mon! Match Terms of Use Text to Users’ Comprehension Level, written by Linda Criddle over at the I look Both Ways blog.

Criddle described her experience examining terms of use documents posted on well-known and popular websites. She looked over the terms of use documents for the sites such as the New York Times, Amazon, iPhone, Club Penguin. Then she ran each document through a readability index – a tool that examines a passage and estimates how easy or hard it will be for a person to read the words, as well as what level of education the reader might need to comprehend the information.

The results of Linda’s terms of use adventure are posted at I Look Both Ways blog, Read, discover, and then initiate and enjoy a thoughtful but lighthearted family discussion. Why on earth would Club Penguin’s terms of use have a first year in college readability level or Amazon’s a third year?

Kids love  to identify , think about, and discuss discrepancies, and much later they will still remember the context of these conversations when a situation arises and independent judgements are required

Have fun exploring with your children!

One thought on “Terms of Use, Readability, and Digital Kids

  1. Teachers also need to get into the habit of looking at Terms of Use and Privacy Policies as part of their obligation to protect students, themselves, and their school when considering online tools for instructional use. Our “process” at my school is that people are supposed to run products by the tech director for review prior to adoption, but many times that just does not happen.

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