European Teens Under 16 Could Be Barred From Snapchat And Instagram

On Tuesday, the European Parliament votes on a law that could move the age of consent for social media from 13 to 16.

European Teens Under 16 Could Be Barred From Snapchat And Instagram
[Photo: Flickr user Hernán Piñera]

If Instagram is “life” for today’s teens, a new proposal in Europe could represent an existential crisis for them. When the European Parliament rules on a new regulation Tuesday, all teens under the age of 16 could be booted off their preferred social media platforms.


An amendment to current data protection laws, the decision would increase the age of consent from 13 to 16 and bar those teens from using Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Snapchat–any social media or messaging service that handles their data. To use a platform that falls within that category, teens would need explicit consent from a parent or guardian.

“The processing of personal data of a child below the age of 16 years shall only be lawful if and to the extent that such consent is given or authorised by the holder of parental responsibility over the child,” the draft reads, according to the Guardian.

As dictated by digital consent laws in both the U.S. and European Union, you currently have to be at least 13 to use sites like Facebook; this supposedly shields children 12 and under from inappropriate content and data tracking. But a child could access social media and messaging services if their parent or adult guardian consented–or if they simply lied about their age. Since platforms like Instagram don’t require official verification–say, by requesting credit card information–it leaves room for teens to virtually age themselves a few years. Increasing the age of consent to 16 may have little impact if teens can easily find their way around the restriction.

The data protection law that includes this consent clause is a result of European regulators putting increasing pressure on tech companies. Since striking down the Safe Harbor agreement, which allowed the transfer of user data from Europe to the U.S., the EU has come down hard on firms like Facebook, which it alleges has continued siphoning data from European users.

[via the Guardian]

About the author

Pavithra Mohan is an assistant editor for Fast Company Digital. Her writing has previously been featured in Gizmodo and Popular Science magazine.