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WhatsApp under Fire for Reducing Minimum Age from 16 to 13 in the UK and EU

Krishi Chowdhary Journalist Author expertise
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  • On Thursday, WhatsApp confirmed that it’s reducing the minimum legal age to use the app from 16 to 13 in the EU and the UK
  • Naturally, there’s a lot of backlash—from politicians to Campaign group Smartphone Free Childhood, a lot of people are calling this decision irresponsible
  • WhatsApp, on the other hand, says it’s doing this to bring the minimum age in these regions in line with the minimum age in other countries

WhatsApp Reduces Minimum Age from 16 to 13 in the UK and EU

In what’s shocking news, WhatsApp has lowered the minimum required age to use the app from 16 to 13 in the UK and EU. The change was first announced in February but it’s finally being implemented now.

Needless to say, WhatsApp has angered a lot of people with this step. For example, the campaign group, Smartphone Free Childhood, said that this move is “tone deaf” and that the company is putting the interest of its shareholders above the safety of children.

Reducing their age of use from 16 to 13 years old ignores the increasingly loud alarm bells being rung by scientists, doctors, teachers, child safety experts, parents and mental health experts alike.Daisy Greenwell, Co-founder of Smartphone Free Childhood

She also denied the common notion that WhatsApp is a relatively safe platform because it involves just texting. Instead, she feels that it’s the first step to getting addicted to all other forms of social media. After all, if you can text someone on WhatsApp then what’s stopping you from using Snapchat or Instagram?

She further added that WhatsApp is a popular choice among predators. Harassment and online bullying are just as common on this platform as any other.

A lot of government officials are also unhappy.

  • Conservative MP Vicky Ford, who is also a member of the education select committee, said Meta taking this decision without consulting parents is a highly irresponsible move.
  • UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that they will be using the regulations under the Online Safety Act to ensure that social media platforms are protecting kids and putting their needs first.

Sunak agreed that there are certain things kids are not meant to see and it’s up to the social media platforms to ensure they provide safe content for their young users. And if they fail to comply with the guidelines, they will be slapped with heavy fines.

It’s important to note that Sunak’s statement addresses the general course of action if a platform fails to comply with the guidelines of the Online Safety Act. The government is yet to announce its decision on WhatsApp’s new move.

Read more: WhatsApp rolled out new privacy features in June of 2023, including privacy checkup and the ability to silence unknown callers.

Reasons behind the Change in Minimum Age of WhatsApp

WhatsApp said it’s doing this to bring the minimum age in the UK and EU at par with the minimum age in other countries.

It also assured that protections have already been put in place so that teenagers can have a safe experience online.

Defending this move, the company also added that on WhatsApp, everyone has control over who gets added to their contacts. Even if a stranger texts them for the first time, the user has the option to block and report them.

Why Is This Bad Timing to Make This Announcement?

Reducing the minimum required age on a social media platform from 16 to 13 will admittedly receive backlash no matter when it’s put into effect. However, this just so happens to be one of the worst times Meta could have picked.

Just two days ago, Instagram (owned by Meta) made a huge announcement saying how it’s releasing new tools to combat sextortion and protect its young users. It recognized the constant harassment teens face online and listed out a series of steps they are taking to fight it.

At a time when Meta is acknowledging that young users are at greater risk, it makes no sense to allow more young users to be online. In a way, it’s going against its own motto of keeping underage users safe online.

This isn’t the first time Meta has tried to reduce the minimum age for its services.

  • Last year, the company announced that it was planning to reduce the minimum age for its virtual reality app from 13 to 10 years old.
  • Another report from last year suggests that CEO Mark Zuckerberg had personally canceled many initiatives meant for the well-being of teens online.
  • Meta also reportedly spied on Snapchat’s traffic.

All these reports resurfacing while Meta is trying to lower the minimum age certainly doesn’t help its case. Whether this change is ultimately implemented or not is yet to be seen.

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Krishi Chowdhary Journalist

Krishi Chowdhary Journalist

Krishi is an eager Tech Journalist and content writer for both B2B and B2C, with a focus on making the process of purchasing software easier for businesses and enhancing their online presence and SEO.

Krishi has a special skill set in writing about technology news, creating educational content on customer relationship management (CRM) software, and recommending project management tools that can help small businesses increase their revenue.

Alongside his writing and blogging work, Krishi's other hobbies include studying the financial markets and cricket.

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