The Daily Grind: Is there a ‘youth’ stigma in online gaming?

A couple of nights ago, my husband was playing Overwatch when I heard a pair of high-pitched voices coming across his headset. “Oh cool, two women in one match,” I said. “No,” he said. “They’re boys. They can’t be older than 12. And they already chased everyone else on the team out of voice chat.”

And then? It was the only game he won all night.

Setting aside my instinct that pre-pubescent kids probably shouldn’t be playing a shooter under Blizzard’s relatively toxic environment umbrella in the first place, I still felt really sorry for the kids. Even before age demographics in online gaming started skewing into 30-somethings, I lost count of how many serious MMO guilds wouldn’t even consider picking up members under 18 or even under 21 or 25. Maybe they had a point that kids don’t belong in adult groups, but without anybody to mentor them – to sit in team chat and patiently explain the way to a win and how to control their language to avoid a ban – they wind up guided by the dregs of gaming, and toxic culture continues long after those voices mature.

Is there a “youth” stigma in online gaming? How do you handle younger players in your MMOs and gaming guilds?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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60 Comments on "The Daily Grind: Is there a ‘youth’ stigma in online gaming?"

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mosselyn
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mosselyn

I don’t socialize IRL with 12 year olds, I don’t see why I should socialize with them online. I belong to a 25+ guild for a reason. There are family oriented guilds out there where the young things are welcome.

I was an officer in an all-ages guild for a few years. We didn’t have many really young kids, but we had a reasonable number of teenagers. For the most part, they were good kids, but OMG the drama. Broken hearts, parent woes, school woes, existential angst. I do not want to spend my game time acting as camp counselor or psychoanalyst. Joining an all adult guild was a HUGE relief.

Nothing wrong with the kids. They’re doing normal kid things. But if I’d wanted to raise kids, I’d have had my own.

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Malcolm Swoboda

12 no. 14 ehhh maybe. 16 could be fine. 18 alright. 20 good. 20s great.

I’m 27 though, not middle-aged.

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Bryan Gregory

Age is a number that means nothing. Seen my fair share of mature kids and immature adults. Seen way more of the latter.

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rafael12104

Hmm…

Well, I prefer not to walk on eggshells, but I am very aware of the kiddies and adjust accordingly. We have had a few, a small few, in our guild over the years and some are the son’s and daughters of good friends.

The main thing though, for me, is to treat them like people. Tone down the language and adult chit chat, but invite them to do stuff and include them just like you would any other guildy. And, I have to be honest, a couple of those youngsters were the best players for running group content. Lol. Damn fine dps.

So, nah, no stigma for me really. I’ll run stuff with them, np.

Mewmew
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Mewmew

Yes there is a youth stigma, and yet it’s often right. It stinks when you’re the odd kid out that it’s wrong about and everybody assumes you’re the same though.

I used to get kicked out of guilds when I said I was under 18 when I was one of the most mature, polite, fair and pleasant players in them, just by saying my age.

When I was a very young girl on voice chat on consoles, ooph. They’d drive *me* out by the stuff they’d say to me (nasty terrible stuff no young girl should have had to hear, and supposedly I was the child? These older male players were terribly childish and sickening and they knew I was a young girl hearing me). I was so polite and happy and excited to be playing online with all these people and they crushed me with what they said to me.

Sometimes you’re the odd mature kid out there, especially if you’re a female player that grows up a bit earlier than your male counterparts. You’re stuck with that same stigma for being young.

We could get in to why of course, there are good reasons behind the stigma usually. Just like everything else even if it covers a great many young players it doesn’t cover them all.

It’s why I stopped answering my age when I was younger, but that got some people riled up too. I could have just made something up to make them happy but I didn’t feel good lying, so I’d just say I preferred not to answer and wanted to be judged on who I was as a person not my age. That would set off all sorts of different things, a few would say okay, others would bug me to the end of time saying it was fine to tell them, and a good deal others would get outright mad at me. Should I have lied and made something up just to make them happy? That doesn’t seem right. And I wasn’t good with sharing my real age anymore past a certain point (I did when I was really young, new to online and naive still) so that wasn’t going to happen either.

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Jack Pipsam

Yeah that’s one thing I learned early on, just best to lie about your age if you’re under 18 sadly.

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Jack Kerras

I don’t think there’s a stigma directly attached to youth.

Kids, by and large, have always been more likely to waste my time than adults. At this point, I ask for people who are 18+, in part because dealing with twelve-year-olds who can’t keep their heads in the game is a pain, and in part because dealing with kids in general can be flat-out fucking dangerous for adults, especially men.

It doesn’t matter how you act or how harmless you are; behind every reasonably-mature tween that can play video games and cooperate with others in a useful way, it is possible there’s a fucking psycho mom or dad who thinks you’re a pedophile for no Goddamn reason.

Kids are fucking scary. All they have to do is say one asshole thing, even if they didn’t pick it up from or near you, and your life suddenly becomes The Hunt. I used to run an Internet cafe, kids came in and played Halo together all the time, and one 17-year-old’s asshole mom (who, I might add, signed a waiver indicating that he could play games at my place, I required that for EVERY <18 customer) spread a false rumor in that vein that straight-up destroyed my fucking business.

Kids don't always suck – some kids are great, and in my youth I always preferred the company of adults! – but dealing with kids is absolutely a risk. Fuck dealing with that shit ever again.

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Bryan Correll

It’s not always easy to tell who the kids are.

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MeltWithYou

Maybe – I pick guilds where peeps are 30+ because I just prefer to hang out with people my own age or older. Other than that, I just dont understand kids anymore, if I hear a kid/teenager on VC for any game, I don’t treat them bad or anything, I just mute them…immediately. They can thank past transgressions from Call of Duty for that.

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Depends on the kid. If they are spamming the mic and being general annoyances who are either not playing the game or there to troll the other players, then yeah, the ‘squeakers’ (as the TF2 servers I am on often call them) are loathed and despised. if they’re making an effort to play the game, sticking relatively to the conversations being held in voice chat, and not overdoing it/talking over others, than I don’t have a problem with them. Of course the sheer number of the former makes it tough sometimes to pick up on those in the latter camp…

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starbuck1771

Is there a youth stigma? No. However there is a maturity stigma. I have seen children who act like adults while at the same time have seen adults act like children.

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draugris

The last time i was in a guild with that young players was in GW2, it was a progress oriented pvp guild. At that time i was around 45. I have mixed memories of that time but in chat and teamspeak most of the time it was annoying tbh. Sooner or later it get´s boring hearing 17 year old boys bragging about their girlfriends or insulting people left and right. Kids in MMO´s are the pest. After my time in GW2 i was only looking for guilds with people around my age and i found that to be way more relaxed.

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NeoWolf

I’m not sure I’d say its a stimga per se.. there are by default more youngsters online playing games than adults so understandably there does seem to be a lot of annoying, out of control and offensive children online…whose behaviour is all the much worse because of them thinking they are safe in the anonymity of an online existence.

But the numerical unbalance making it seem like all youngsters are in need of some SERIOUS parental control aside there are definitely bad apples in every age groups barrel online young and old.

I can say in all certainty though if I were a parent and I saw my child behaving and speaking in some of the ways I’ve seen and experienced many youngsters behave online over the years, their online existence would be done, finito and they would not have unsupervised access again until they moved out of home lol Clearly many parents have NO CLUE at all as to what their kids are doing and saying online and thats kind of frightening and sad at the same time.

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Jack Pipsam

Totally, I know as I felt it first hand. I am 22 now so it’s all whatever, but I started Runescape at like age 10. Found WoW at 12 (got more into at 14), DDO at 13, ect.
So I know that people can just be jerks and instantly judge you without actually knowing you.

I mean ageism is a bit like sexism, racism ect, all just stereotypes. And certainly it falls the other-way, it’s easy to blame older folks for all the problems in the world when it’s not exactly fair.

But it really depends on the game, context, who you come across ect. For example nobody gave a toss I was 13 on Xbox LIVE in Halo 3, nobody cared for as long as your K/D was up to snuff. CoD was a bit the same for a while. Yet in other games I found like CS: Source, even if your skill was good, they’d just be a dick to you if you’re a kid. But whatever.

Immaturely exists in many forms and I don’t think it’s always age-locked. I believe I was a more respectful and tolerant person before high-school made me cynical (no edge zone until 13). When I see a lot of sexist stuff online, seems to be more from folks older than me than tweens now, especially as the total-rubbish “games are for boys” attitude is more a thing of my childhood than kids now where it’s enjoyed equally by both.

With MMOs, I dunno if the MMO scene has the luxury to be too picky if they want to keep in a new stream of players. I am an exception, not the rule for my interest in MMOs. Most of my peers think the genre is a total waste of time, they’re not wrong either ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°), so you want to bring in new players in an genre with a lot of titles craving for your attention and the player attitude is “New players not welcome”, well, reep what you sow.

It’s easy to point the finger at mobile and say that’s what’s doing it. But plenty of PC indie games are huge with kids, interest in games is high, just not MMOs.
Doesn’t help that many kids introductions to MMOs are crappy kids-focused MMOs, so unless they’re into Runescape or just try GW2, then they’re not given a good impression.

All the stranger-danger stuff (while important), is so overboard you’re not winning the youth over if you’re going to treat them like they’re a landmine and you can’t even talk with them. Nothing will turn a tween off like you being condescending to them. Respect is a two way street after-all.
Blocks jerks, embrace cool people.

If you’re going to turn up your nose to youth, don’t whinge if your game becomes stagnant.

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Oleg Chebeneev

Naive Bree. Feeling sorry for kids like they suffer in acid environment. They are in it like fish in water adding volumes to toxity. As for guilds not recruiting kids. Kids dont care, there are tons of guilds to choose from.

As for me, I have more stigma for dumb players. Ive seen plenty of youngsters (aged 15-16) who know what they are doing and who I would rather group with then keep wiping with “grownups”.

taradyne
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taradyne

Some of my most amazing time in WoW (years ago) was working with the young kids who came to our guild. At the time we even had a 14 year-old as an officer of the guild because he was mature enough to really be an asset. I played WoW for seven years but the kids I helped mentor back then are young adults today and I’m delighted to see how their experiences in WoW helped instill confidence.

Having said that, we were one of few guilds that accepted kids and no child under 12 was allowed in the guild without a parent. Even in WoW, trade chat could be pretty toxic and there were predatory types hiding in plain sight. It takes a lot of patience to work with kids in guilds but it’s worth the effort. They very much want to be included, and are willing to work hard to please.

I will say the most difficult to work with was an ADD/ADHD boy who would not shut up. He worked hard to be a good raider but contributed little conversationally. Eventually, I think he was muted on TS by almost everyone in the raid. >.<

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Schlag Sweetleaf

Just win, baby.

just win baby.gif
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Utakata

Nice shot! But this is still my favorite though. <3

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Jack Pipsam

That reminds me of an old Xbox LIVE ad when they were promoting their voice-masking feature.

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Ailsa Nordstrom

lol I remember when our kids were little, my husband changed the options in Quake so the blood was green!

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CthulhuDawg

If that baby and computer were a few years older that would be me.

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Schmidt.Capela

Children in guilds can be problematic. If you allow them, then you either need to keep guild chat PG13 or admit you don’t care about being a bad influence. Besides, I don’t think it’s a good thing to have children playing too much (for example, I believe the typical schedule of a raiding guild isn’t appropriate to them), and since their time isn’t entirely their own (they can be grounded, or forced to go somewhere with their parents), I put them right there with adult parents for how unreliable their “commitment” can be.

Apart from that, I don’t care much. I mean, I would treat them similarly to an adult with the same demonstrated skill and maturity level — and it isn’t too hard to find children that can play as well as any adult and are more mature than the average adult.

styopa
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styopa

There’s not a ‘youth stigma’ in online gaming any more than there’s a (justifiable) ‘youth stigma’ everywhere: speaking as someone who used to be one, boys can be monstrous pains in the ass.
I know this is very retro of me, but (especially at that age) boys and girls are very, very different animals. Boys badly need behavior boundaries (best if they’re simply learned with the help of a strong male role model), or frankly they can turn a bit feral.
Unfortunately, few parents play online/electronic games with their kids, the chat environment there can start to smell a bit like Lord of the Flies.

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Ket Viliano

My nieces need boundaries every bit as much as my nephew. “Feral” is a good way to put it.

“Lord of the Flies” Yep.

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A Dad Supreme

Stigmas and stereotypes always have a bit of truth in them somewhere, which is why they become stigmas and stereotypes.

The worst thing is when two or three teens start talking to each other and giggling around. I can deal with teen voices and antics since I’m a Dad. It’s not too bad even when it wasn’t my kid since there are worse things to hear.

Like that “grown up” that insists on playing his rap/club/country/heavy metal music that everyone can hear and sings along as if he’s doing everyone a favor.

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Melissa McDonald

I am definitely doing everyone a favour when I sing heavy metal. LOL :P

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DeadlyAccurate

I don’t turn on voice chat, so I don’t normally know the ages of the people I play with. All I try to do is be a positive role model in text: saying “gg” after a match, complimenting people for a job well done, etc.

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Sally Bowls

under Blizzard’s relatively toxic environment umbrella

Is this really true? I don’t partake, but my understanding was that OW was at worst about the same as CoD, LoL, DOTA and perhaps was aiming a tad higher/less toxic.

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BDJ

It should have really read “Online Gaming’s relatively toxic environment umbrella”. There isn’t a game out that doesn’t have toxicity running through it.

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CthulhuDawg

I played for 6 months starting this past December and I can say I definitely saw marked increase in toxicity month over month which led me to find other games to play. Blizzard wasn’t really doing anything about it punitively until recent. Maybe it will get better.

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CMDR Crow

Somewhat. It has become better but overall it is merely the function of when huge swaths of people flock to anything. When you’re only with people, out of millions in the pool, for 5-10 minutes there exists no need to “watch yourself” or be nice or whatever.

Something I see in Hearthstone a lot is people always interpreting the limited “emotes” as sarcasm or somehow negative and never believing that someone said “Well played” and “Thank you” as a courtesy after a match… like most TCG players were taught to do as a basic sense of good manners. There was a Reddit thread on this recently, and so many people always, always, always saw any communication from their opponent as “nasty” and “negative.”

As humans we give our own selves plenty of rope. We do things for reasons we know and when we stop communicating those reasons humans also fall into the trap of assuming negatives over positives. It is pretty base psychology, in fact, that negatives overwhelm positives as an evolutionary process. We more strongly remember being burnt by fire than we remember the warmth and sustenance it provides. A sample of three where one outcome is negative and the other two are positive almost always ends up with humans, unknowingly, focusing far more on the 1/3 that went wrong than about the majority that went right.

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Witches

Children aren’t irrational animals, they can understand reason, some of them choose not to because they know they can get away with it, i treat them the same way i would treat an adult that acted the same way, i’ll try and be as didactic and as little hostile as possible, but there’s no reason to put up with young idiots.

When i was a kid i did lots of stuff that was meant for adults, as long as you don’t act like a stupid kid no one will bother you.

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thirtymil

Youth brings a different perspective. My daughters find fun in parts of Warcraft that I would just ignore normally – they remind me to slow down and enjoy things for what they are, not for what is over the next iLvl. Likewise, I have a nephew who knows his way round Forza and Star Wars Battlefront in a way I could never be bothered to attain (I can still match him in a lightsaber fight though, although he’s better with blasters on an Xbox controller /sigh).

Would I have felt this way before having kids? Possibly not, but I do know the most fun Warcraft guild I was in was guildmastered by someone half my age. I guess for me, the tolerance for different playstyles and the enthusiasm that these people exhibit supersedes any natural desire I might have for the predictability of my own comfort zone.

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Sally Bowls

My wide and deep stigma against other gamers is not mostly age based … wait that’s not true; put me down for age based stigma amongst 13-22 YO males.

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Armsbend

I do not treat children as if they are something other than human – in real life or in gaming. Sure, I purposely tone down the language and leave the innuendo out but other than that I treat them as I would anyone else. If they are annoying – I ignore them – same as an adult.

Too often I think people treat children either as too precious cargo or as pets – they are neither. They have as much value as anyone else. Most times I find children more engaging and intelligent than a good many adults so I try to treat them as such.

That’s all I wanted when I was a kid really.

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Armsbend

another thing – if some adult I didn’t know wanted to “mentor” me I’d be rightfully creeped out and say gtfo creep. That goes 20000X times as a parent. If found out some old man was mentoring my kid on game etiquette I’d have a talk – cut the net if they couldn’t act like the human I mentioned earlier.

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Melissa McDonald

The game has a lot to do with it. You’re going to find a lot more teens in Overwatch than LOTRO.

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Ravven

That is true, but Overwatch is interesting in that it has a much broader playerbase than you would expect. I do book cover art for a living and so I follow a ton of writers on Twitter, and I’m always astonished at the people who post about being in love with the game. So many women in the 30-to-50something range who play. I am at the top end of that range myself, and I love it (while not being bothered that I am very much in the minority).

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CMDR Crow

It is teenage/pre-teen boys in groups. It brings out the worst and most immature side of them. I know. I was one, once.

Every once in awhile I play OW during “afterschool” time and eventually I get a group of 3+ teenage boys with squeaky voices and a lot of stuff I find, as someone well into my 30s, uninteresting.

You can only do one thing, really, in a longer-term place which is to evaluate everyone as individuals. Two of my favorite in-guild buddies over the years were teenage kids in MMOs who simply pass the “maturity bar” and that isn’t exactly a high standard. It is a bit of a “Schrodinger’s Kid” insomuch as many younger players don’t give off “telltale” signs of being young. So the only ones we end up knowing are kids are the ones who exemplify the extremes of the behavior associated with being “young.”

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Boom

I dont think its your responsibility to mentor kids in online games, sure tell them to chill if they are getting a little boisterous but if a 9yr old is already yelling he fckd your mum then its probably already gameover for that little shit in rl anyway.
Theres also not much you can really do about a kids home life without crossing those boundaries which is obviously a very tricky line to tread.

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Armsbend

I am picturing a wanted poster with a 9 year olds face with a red stamp over it “gameover irl”.

Siphaed
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Siphaed

There’s two “youth stigma”s in online games: 1) Video games are for kids. 2) Kids in online game teams are annoying CoD ‘twits’ that won’t listen, won’t cooperate, spam VOIP/chat, and generally annoy.

I know the first to be absolutely false due to the median age of gamers now days.

The second might be more prevalent to shooters than it is in MMORPGs. Or it is a generational thing with current kids compared to those 10 years ago. Back then -gosh that sounds old- it really didn’t matter much so long as they were able to hold their own, listen to the guild/raid lead, and work well with the guild. The guild itself mentored the younglings and they became essential players. With our WoW guild, the main raid tank was a kid in his teens compared to everyone else being in their 20’s to 30’s.

The biggest issue ever coming up was language and “adult conversations” in VOIP when a kid was in there. It did make some rifts between those that wanted to freely speak openly (while drunk on a Friday) and those that wanted to keep it PG-13ish. Swearing like a sailor wasn’t condoned, but the occasional slip of the tongue was permissible. When it became steamy talk of liquor, pot, and sex….ya, there was a special guild channel reserved for that locked out to those under the age of 18yr old.

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Jack Pipsam

Good thing no teenager ever talks about sex then ;3

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

we’ve had younger folk in teh guild in the past, all grown up into young adults now over the years tho. idk how comofrtable i would be inviting kids that age in the future, but then i’m reminded of younger folk we’ve had hang out with us in more recent years and they were generally ok kids.

idk as long as i’m not babysitting them and they are fairly reasonable people i’m not too fussed about it.

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CthulhuDawg

The only time having kids worked out in our Guilds was if they joined with a parent and felt obligated to behave. Otherwise once they felt comfortable it’s like we were their cool uncles who would let them drink and swear which would herald the incoming of unacceptable and annoying behavior. /gkick

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

teh parents in my guild don’t bring their kids in, which they would be welcome to i guess but not fussed either way. as long as we don’t end up having to baby sit them it’s fine. or being demanded to act like role models or something i guess which i’ve seen happen or heard of.

our first merge started creating all these “what if” scenarios to over moderate our language which on our end was intentionally and conciously pretty mild as per agreement with them when initially merging. but for some reason they decided to go over board and “what if we recruit kids!” which was like “kids that are old enough to play mmo’s legally probably heard much worse language at school than anything we’re saying”.

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Utakata

I prefer my pigtails healthy and vibrant as opposed to old and gray…

“I think they talking about youth stigma, not youthful stigma, Uta.”

…oh! Well as long as they’re not mean or jerks they are welcome to play any game of mine. I personally find the older ones who are mean and/or jerks, then wax apologetics about it more troublesome though. :(

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MesaSage

I never encounter the “good kids” because they happily go their way and have fun with the game. It’s the problem children that invade your space and make an annoyance of themselves. Like many other aspects of modern life, a few ruin it for the rest.

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Xijit

It isn’t about play ability.

It is about the constant ear bleeding screech / train of thought babbling that kids on voice do during a shooter.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

just reminded me of our time in csgo last year or w/e that was. lol

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TheDonDude

Kids today! They’ve ruined videogaming! And music! And books! And ‘murica’s toughness!

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mysecretid

Hee hee. :-)

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CMDR Crow

What’s a “book”?

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CthulhuDawg

It’s what comes before the Blook and the Blovie.

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Armsbend

“And ‘murica’s toughness!”

sorry, baby boomers.

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BalsBigBrother

Wait, WHAT? Your husband had voice chat ON in Overwatch, yikes!

I don’t tend to factor age or anything else for that matter into who I chat to. In keeping with my general mentality I keep it simple so if folks are polite I will be willing to chat with them and if they are not I will block or ignore as necessary.

Right back to the important bit just so I am understanding what you wrote and not falling foul of some strange American English language differences. Your husband had voice chat on, actually on so he could speak and hear the other players while playing in Overwatch?

Um, sorry I am seeing the words but it’s not going in. I think I need to go lie down so that my head might be able to process that.

hehe ;-)

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starbuck1771

Exactly which is a feature that voice chat offers in Overwatch you can mute specific speakers. I hate it when players not just kids come in on hands free mode with music blaring through VC so I hit that mute clicky.

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Pandalulz

Just like most online gaming, I either solo or play with the few people I know online. Funny enough, when it comes to Destiny 2, the two people I end up playing with the most are my friends’ 10 and 14 year old sons (not related), just because they’re on the most. And honestly, the situation is the same: because I know them, they’re civil and respectful (it helps that I know both of them have their parents sitting over them while they play, which I guess is the upside to console gaming and it getting locked to the living room TV). The ten year old had a bad habit of messaging me the moment my PS4 would turn on, and I had to get him to chill on that. And he likes to just play Crucible non-stop which I got severely burnt out on. At the end of the day though, I’m the old man lagging behind, trying to figure out where everybody went, and getting schooled on the actual gameplay mechanics.

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CMDR Crow

I’m the old man lagging behind, trying to figure out where everybody went, and getting schooled on the actual gameplay mechanics.

Oh my. I feel this way all the time. Probably why I’ve been getting my competitive rocks off in Hearthstone instead of OW. I can play cards well… twitch-based action shooters? NOPE.

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CthulhuDawg

I only have so much time to game in a given week. I don’t want to spend that time playing with children, regardless of their physical or mental age.

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