A last-minute change to pending EU data-protection rules will ban under-16s from using social media without explicit parental consent — the rules are up for a vote on Tuesday.
The US version of this rule, COPPA, bans kids under 13 from creating accounts online without parental consent; the EU rules presently match this. The new rules have been introduced without warning or consultation.
The US and EU rules have thus far done little to keep under-13s out of social media. Kids just lie. Attempts to strengthen enforcement (such as requiring parents to send copies of their ID along with permission notes) will do little more, except expose parents to identity theft risks when those copies leak.
The changes are equally opposed by technology companies and child-safety experts, who warned that the increased age of consent would make it very difficult for teenagers under 16 to use social media and other internet-based resources and services.
Janice Richardson, former coordinator of European Safer Internet network, and consultant to the United Nations' information technology body, the ITU and the Council of Europe said: "Moving the age from 13 to 16 represents a major shift in policy on which it seems there has been no public consultation.
"We feel that moving the requirement for parental consent from age 13 to age 16 would deprive young people of educational and social opportunities in a number of ways, yet would provide no more (and likely even less) protection."
Larry Magid, chief executive of ConnectSafely.org, said: "It will have the impact of banning a very significant percentage of youth and especially the most vulnerable ones who will be unable to obtain parental consent for a variety of reasons."
Is Europe really going to ban teenagers from Facebook and the internet?
[Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian]