At 13, the proposed digital age of consent for Irish citizens is at the lower end of the scale under EU law.
The Irish Government’s Cabinet has agreed that the digital age of consent for access to services without parental approval should be set at 13.
The decision is part of the planned legislation for harmonising Irish law with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into force on 25 May 2018.
‘To set the age any higher would mean to deprive children of educational and social opportunities online as they develop into young adults’
– IAN POWER
The decision follows a recommendation made earlier this month by the special rapporteur for child protection, Dr Geoffrey Shannon.
Up until now, the same data practices for adults were being used for teenagers.
Shannon said it was important that the State must not restrict children’s civil and political rights, such as the right to freedom of information and expression.
A decision for the ages
The digital age of consent refers to the age at which young people may sign up for online services, such as social media sites, without needing the explicit approval of their parent or guardian.
Under the incoming GDPR, member states are free to set their national age between 13 and 16. In Ireland, 13 has long been the de facto age of consent for signing up to all popular social media platforms and other web services.
The decision was welcomed by the executive director of SpunOut.ie, Ian Power.
“To set the age any higher would mean to deprive children of educational and social opportunities online as they develop into young adults,” Power said.
“The proposal to verify the ages of prospective teen users and confirm parental consent would have been impossible to meaningfully enforce.
“Furthermore, it would not have had any effect beyond curtailing children’s rights and may have even prevented Government from effectively protecting children from alcohol and gambling advertising, given it would encourage even more young people to lie about their age online.”