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Parental anger as Zwift deletes children’s accounts

Virtual cycling platform required guardians to update consent details or accounts would be deleted – but some who did say they now cannot access them

Zwift is facing an angry reaction from parents of children using the virtual cycling platform, who have now had their accounts and achievements deleted after the company required guardians to provide updated consent forms to comply with laws aimed at safeguarding youngsters online – although it appears that in many cases, the email notifying the requirement was sent to the child rather than their guardian, and that some accounts have been deleted even when the form was completed and returned. The company meanwhile insists that the safety and protection of children is its paramount concern.

A number of parents – most, if not all, paid users of the service themselves – have taken to the Zwift forum to criticise the company’s handling of the issue, with many pointing out that being able to ride their bikes indoors during lockdown was having a positive impact on their children’s mental health.

Launched last year, Zwift Children’s Accounts are available free of charge to 5-16 year olds, but require written consent from a parent or legal guardian to comply with the requirements of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) in the US, or the General Data Protection Regulation in the EU, which has also been retained in UK law following the end of the Brexit transition period.

The online form requires details of both the guardian(s) and child to be completed, together with separate email addresses for both.

One user, starting a thread on the subject on the Zwift General Discussion forum earlier this week, under the heading “Childs Account deleted,” said:

My child’s account has been deleted for no reason, we have had no emails it just suddenly disappeared last week. He is only 13 and has worked really hard to earn points and get to level 15 and is devastated this has been taken from him. I have emailed Zwift several times but getting no response even though their 72hr deadline has passed. We completed the consent & COPPA forms last April so it can’t be that. Is anyone else having similar problems, its seems suspect there is a contact form for deleted child accounts on the front page of the Contact Us. He is in lockdown so can’t go out and his school is closed and Zwift was the only thing keeping him sane.

Another user said in reply:

Just discovered this. My daughter has been very distraught not being able to get into her account since last week. She was very consistent on it as it was the only activity keeping her sane during lockdown. Has anybody had any luck getting it reinstated? I wish there was a warning of something in the app. I don’t remember getting any emails about any info, we filled in all the COPPA stuff already.

This parent said that the email notifying that an updated form needed to be submitted had been sent not to them, but to their son:

One email to my son on 4th September, nothing to my account. My son doesn’t check his emails, he’s a child. This has been horrendously implemented by Zwift.

Another said that they had submitted an updated form last year, which Zwift had acknowledged – but his son is now locked out of his account, and so far the parent has not heard back from Zwift.

Same happened to my sons account. His lost all his data and achievements on Zwift.

I filled in the new COPPA consent form in December. Then had confirmation from Zwift that it had been received and his account had been extended for another year. Then this week we couldn’t get into the account.

I contacted Zwift support who then sent back a templated standard response saying I hadn’t completed the new consent form. I told them in the email to them I had and have the confirmation from them. They have ignored my follow up email and not provided an explanation.

They have obviously competed messed this up and deleted either all kids accounts or at least some which have completed the new form.

Come on Zwift you need to come clean, try and sort this out and offer an apology to all those kids that have lost their accounts and record of their achievements on Zwift.

In a post on its General Discussion forum in November, Zwift outlined that consent forms needed to be resubmitted to ensure compliance with the relevant legislation.

In the forum post, which has the heading “Free Kids Accounts – Guardians Please Read,” a Zwift community manager said: “Some of you may have been sent multiple emails regarding this update, and we apologize for any annoyance. Since we are required to delete any accounts that have not been updated with the new consent form, we wanted to exhaust every effort to ensure we are reaching all guardians and avoid deleting any active child accounts.

“This forum post is another avenue to get the message out, so if you have submitted an updated form in the last few months, you shouldn’t have to worry. However, if you submitted the form sometime this year and aren’t sure if we have the proper documentation down for your child’s account, please contact us here.”

The post added: “If you have multiple children registered on Zwift, you will need to submit an updated form for each child.”

In a subsequent post to the forum on 29 January under the heading “Can’t Log Into Your Child’s Account? Guardians Please Read,” another Zwift community manager said: “It is now a requirement for all guardians to complete a form containing specific language providing consent.

“Details of this change were communicated via email and many of you have helped us tidy up details of your child’s account by submitting an updated consent form – but many parents have not. We’ve exhausted our efforts to reach you, and needed to meet a deadline to demonstrate compliance of all child accounts.

“Due to this deadline, we were required to delete those child accounts that had not been made compliant,” it added.

A spokesperson for Zwift told “We're incredibly pleased to offer our Kids Zwift Free program and now have tens of thousands registered and riding on the platform. While we believe helping kids stay more active is incredibly important, it's even more important that we are able to keep them safe and protected. In order to remain compliant with child safety and privacy laws across the world, including Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and GDPR we needed to obtain additional information from guardians. Details of the process can be found here. Accounts without this consent do have to be removed. Information on these pending changes was first communicated in the summer 2020 and we extended that deadline to try and reach as many guardians as possible. That deadline ultimately passed at the end of January.

“If parents feel their child's accounts have been mistakenly deleted or would like their child's account reinstated, they can also get in touch using this form. We'll do what we can to ensure nobody loses out but child safety remains our primary concern.”

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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fixit | 3 years ago
1 like

sorry, but on the planet I live, children play with marbles, hide and seek, game cards, some playstation, skating , rollerblading, bmxing, you know, neighbour stuff. oh, wait...

Drinfinity | 3 years ago
1 like

Same here - safeguarding email went to child's address not mine, so the first I knew was when she couldn't log in for a club ride. She was gutted to have lost progress.

"We wanted to exhaust every effort to reach all guardians " , but didn't bother to emailshot the guardians even once? That was insulting.

The Zwift free kids subscription was great, and it would probably have brought in many years of future paying users if only they hadn't handled it so incompetently.

TagRed | 3 years ago
1 like

Sad but not a huge surprise, Zwift is poorly implemented with regards anything but the riding itself. For sure that's the most important part but a lot of the other bits are poor.

For example - can't edit half the info on a profile without starting a ride. Can't finish one ride and start another without fully exiting the app.

And now this, which should have been an in-game prompt to all parent accounts. It's not like Zwift is cheap, I just feel they have about 10% of the development team they need.

wycombewheeler replied to TagRed | 3 years ago
1 like

TagRed wrote:

Sad but not a huge surprise, Zwift is poorly implemented with regards anything but the riding itself. For sure that's the most important part but a lot of the other bits are poor. For example - can't edit half the info on a profile without starting a ride. Can't finish one ride and start another without fully exiting the app..

Can't see which routes you have already completed before selecting which one to ride, and then having to exit the app totally if you find you are not doing a new route as intended.

I also found I can't edit the turbo settings when logged in to the game unless connected to the turbo. Meaning heading for the cold garage instead of doing it in the warm living room. Or heading to the garage to turn the trainer on, then going back into the warm to adjust all settings, then heading back to the garage to turn off.

pwake replied to wycombewheeler | 3 years ago

If you want to ride all the routes to get the XP then Zwifthub is a great tool for keeping track, although you do have to manually update it but that's not a mjor hassle really. It's actually what Zwift should have integrated into their program.

maryka replied to wycombewheeler | 3 years ago

Get the Zwift Prefs app, you edit turbo settings from there.  Also lets you override worlds so you can do things like watch other riders race more easily.

a4th replied to TagRed | 3 years ago

Couldn't agree more with this comment. I feel like Zwift are relying on the fact that there isn't really a decent alternative out there. It's a good concept, but the apps, interface and usability are really shoddy. Zwift feels like MySpace or Nokia - they have what seems like an unassailable position but as soon as something slicker comes along they'll be in trouble.

cqexbesd | 3 years ago

Surely they missed the chance to have virtual people hold up signs on the big climbs...


AYUSO - we need your COPPA consent form!

PS Allez!


DirkWester replied to cqexbesd | 3 years ago
1 like

I am using Zwift since 2015 several times a week. I have seen Zwift developing significanty over time. I always regretted that Zwift did not have a family membership. Great was teh news that the free children account were introduced during the COVID19 times.
My thee sons had some great excercise during home schooling. Today they were up for final Stage 8 of the tour de Zwift, but today their account have vanished, they are GUTTED and so am I. the consent forms were less than a year old, a single email was sufficient from Zwift. Why not a pop-up when entering Zwift? I get more than enough product placement announcements (I understand that), a simpel warning there would have done. I am sure Zwift can do better than this.

Boopop | 3 years ago

Surely they could have simply put a warning up for children a few weeks ago every time you logged in to zwift if this form (according to zwift) hadn't been completed.

MattieKempy | 3 years ago

Happened to my girls. We had emails from Zwift, I emaile Zwift back to check it wasn't phishing and got no response. Next we know, accounts deleted.

Rapha Nadal replied to MattieKempy | 3 years ago

Did you respond to the same email that Zwift sent you whilst suspecting that it might have been a phising scam?  Or did you attach it to a new email with the same query?

nickthemarmaliser | 3 years ago

My daughter used a free youth Zwift account until last weekend, as part of her training on the British Cycling Talent Programme. She tried repeatedly to reset her password to no avail, before contacting Zwift support who simply denied there was an account in her name with no advice about her account having being deleted. There was no reply to our further enquiry with evidence of the account's existence. We discovered online what probably happened and trawling my mailbox proved fruitless. Indeed, the warning mail was sent a couple of months ago, to her mailbox and she didn't read it. In the meantime, she has missed this week's BC Development Centre. It's probably taught her a valuable lesson about what her mailbox, and her phone, is for and she's now spending more time on the rollers looking in the mirror. However, I do hope Zwift can restore her account or give her a new one, she can always earn the sweat all over again, before next week's Talent Development Race.

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