Statement of Family Online Safety Institute in Response to Proposed Increase in Age of Digital Consent

December 14, 2015

In response to the imminent resolution of the discussions around raising the age of digital consent to 16 in Europe, we would like to put forth the main reasons that we oppose the change.

Firstly, social media provides an established and proven source of support and information for young people who may not otherwise be able to access it. This is particularly important when considering the accessibility of critical services including guidance from physical and mental health support organisations.

The proposals do not take into account the reality of millions of children that have already become active users of these services. The feasibility of suspending their accounts and banning them from the platforms will be nearly impossible to implement. Furthermore, vital protections offered to younger users of social media sites may be invalidated by causing children to lie about their true age.

Restricting teens’ use of social media in the absence of parental consent will adversely affect the use of these tools in the area of education, which has expanded and proved incredibly beneficial, both within classrooms and independently.

It is our position that the best way to approach online child protection is by facilitating as much early digital literacy as possible, coupled with open communications as well as parental and privacy controls.