Ahead of the new EU data regulations which will take effect on May 25, the instant messaging app, WhatsApp which is also owned by Facebook Inc. is raising the minimum age limit to 16 in the European Union.
The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, (GPDR) will accord users the control over how their data is used as regards the information they supply to internet-based companies. The new law will also take cognizance of kids who use platforms like WhatsApp.
Since the platform does not verify users’ ages before accessing their site, it will now to obliged to make an effort to ensure that a parent has given permission or authorization for their kids or wards to use the online service. This new law applies to users below 16. Other countries aside the UK will maintain the cut-off age at 13.
The app currently allows users from the age of 13 to use the app but will begin to request that users confirm their age and agree to the terms and conditions. Unlike other sites, WhatsApp does not ask users’ age before they can access the site and neither does it reference users’ Facebook or Instagram account to find out their actual ages.
Statistics by the media regulator in 2017 revealed that the instant messaging app is used by a third of 12-15-year-olds in the UK, making it the 5th most popular app after Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and YouTube.
This decision taken by the EU puts the parents of these children in a compromising situation. Not only is it the issue with the raised age; these parents or guardians have to give consent or approval for them to use the platform even though not all of them agree with the EU’s decision.
Given this recent development, some users have expressed conflicting opinions on the age-raise issue. While some think that the EU is doing good to protect internet abuse among youngsters, some other users think otherwise. Some parents have tweeted:
Very pleased today to hear WhatsApp is raising the age of use from 13 to 16. At last, someone is doing something to protect teenage minds & self-esteem. Come on Facebook get your act together #WhatsaApp #Facebook.
All very valid points but my 13-year-old daughter is part of a form WhatsApp group where they check in with how they are feeling and also what lessons they have, homework that’s due, they help each other with homework. So increasing the age limit would be detrimental for her
However, WhatsApp does not object to the new EU rules even though it had faced a backlash in the past. It says the move will ensure its compliance with the “new high standards of transparency.” In a more explicit view, it saves the stress of seeking consent for users in specific countries who set cut-off ages for internet users.