A long negotiated EU data protection reform found itself in the midst of a maelstrom when media suddenly reported that several big online services companies were staging a last-minute lobbying effort to prevent the EU from banning teens from using social media. Attention grabbing headlines included: “Europe’s tech mad teens face tighter parental controls” FT, 14 December; “Is Europe really going to ban teenagers from Facebook and the Internet”, Guardian, 15 December; “Is Europe going to restrict teens from Facebook?” BBC, 15 December; “New EU laws could ban under16s from using Twitter and Facebook without their parents’ permission” Daily Mail, 15 December. The claims were that contrary to international, mainly US, practice the EU would introduce a requirement for social media users under the age of 16 to have formal parental consent.
The current situation across the EU member states is varied – some (like the UK) apply 13 years, some have national laws that require anyone under 16 to demonstrate parental consent, some have no age-limit provisions at all on this.
So on 15 December 2015 an agreement was reached on a compromise – for countries where there are currently no provisions, an age of 16 years will apply. Countries which do have national laws can stick to a lower age, but no lower than 13 years.
This means nothing will change for the UK – tech savvy teens will enjoy their networking as now.