Facebook, who own Instagram and Whatsapp, has just announced a new age limit of 16 for European Whatsapp users.
The changes in Data Protection rules in the EU known as GDPR, we look at what age restrictions are in place across the most popular social media services, why they exist and what our advice is for parents and young people.
Europeans now need to be 16 to use WhatsApp in a rule change announced by Facebook
Other Social media platform require users to be at least 13 years of age to access and use their services. This includes Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Musical.ly and Skype.
YouTube, the biggest player for younger audiences has no age restrictions however YouTube, users need to be 13 or older to have their own YouTube account (in order to subscribe to other channels, like videos, post comments, share their own content and flag inappropriate content).
And they have Kids YouTube, Age restriction mode. YouTube are in our view the most responsible of all of these players, not perfect but better than the rest.
These social media safe harbor rules are of course a load of face saving self serving nonsense as every parent knows.
Despite the laws in the USA known as the COPPA law or Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act which states that any organisation or people operating online services (including social media services) are not allowed to collect the personal information of anyone under the age of 13 without parental permission.
Most social media platforms have instead chosen to place an age restriction of 13 to their services. They write this rule into their Terms and Conditions – which users must agree to when they initially sign up and some services may ask users to declare their age during sign up.
WhatsApp’s new age limit has been chosen in response to the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into effect from the 25th May 2018 and will only apply in the European region, and not elsewhere (e.g. the middle east, Asia and USA).
Users, and the parents of users, should expect to see more communications from companies and others over the coming weeks as they work to ensure that they are complying with the new General Data Protection Regulation.
Whilst COPPA and GDPR exist to protect the personal information of children, there are also other elements of social media use which may not be appropriate for young users.
Our advice with regards to age restrictions is that it’s always better to wait until the proper age (usually 13) to join any social media service. These rules around age relate to privacy, but also are relevant to safety.
Some services offer additional protection for users who are registered as under 18, and by supplying a fake age young people loses this protection.
Young people also risk being exposed to content which is intended for older users when they use sites that are not designed for people their age.
Additionally, if a service finds out a user is underage then they may delete the user’s account and any content which has been shared.
We know that social media services are popular with young people of all ages. Parents have an important role in helping prepare their children to go online before they start to use social media platforms.
Together you can look at the key things they need to know about staying safe online, critical thinking, and the safety settings that are available to them.
When looking at creating a profile online with your child, have a discussion as a family and make this decision together – talk about why they want the account and ensure that any family members using social media know what tools are available to help them stay safe. You may want to use our family agreement to support with this.
It’s a first step from Facebook acting no doubt in response to their recent exposure to the US Congress. It’s curious why they did not put Instagram, their premium product for the Teenage audience, out into the light.
Bid Tech are now the new Banks and big Pharmaceutical. They are bigger, richer and arguably much more powerful. It’s time to take the gloves off and regulate properly.
Contact us, for more information about our internet safety talks for kids and teens. We share valuable knowledge about stayign safe online and the real dangers of the internet.
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