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Social media companies must raise account age limit here to a minimum of 16- Cannon

8th February 2024 - Ciaran Cannon TD

All social media companies must raise their account age limits to 16 to match the digital consent age here, according to Fine Gael TD Ciaran Cannon.

Deputy Cannon said social media platforms must act and be accountable to limit the risk of harmful content, cyberbullying and other dangerous activity while children are online.

Deputy Cannon, Fine Gael media spokesperson and a member of the Oireachtas Media Committee,  said: “The digital age of consent is the minimum age a user must be before a social media or internet company can collect, process and store their data.

“In Ireland it is 16, higher than the age a user must be to create a social media profile on platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram or TikTok.

“Teenagers between the age of 13 and 16 years old must have parental permission to sign-up to social media for the purpose of data collection.

Instagram and Facebook requires users to be at least 13 years old before they can create an account – in some jurisdictions, this age limit may be higher.

Tiktok now have a feature to ensure every account belonging to a user below age 18 is automatically set to a 60-minute daily screen time limit. The company is moving to improve its screen time tool, introducing new default settings for teen accounts, and expanding parental controls.

“In the European Union, users must be at least 16 – or a greater age in some countries – to register for WhatsApp.

“Concerns have long been expressed about how easy it is for children to bypass these age restrictions by claiming that they are older than they are when setting up an account.

“Alarmingly, data from CyberSafeKids reveals that 84% of under 12s have their own social media or instant messaging account, despite these minimum age restrictions of 13 on the most popular apps. And 93% of eight to 12-year-olds also have their own smart device.

“Over a quarter of all the children surveyed had seen or experienced something online in the last year that bothered them such as sexual or violent content.

“It begs the question of these social media firms raising the account age limit to 16 completely, to match the age of digital consent here.

“We need to be able to discuss this issue and age verification methods with the social media firms, so I would ask them to come before the Oireachtas media committee so we can raise concerns around safety and risk to them,” Deputy Cannon concluded.

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