Member states of the European Union (EU), including Britain, will have the power to set their own age limits for social media use after a uniform policy could not be agreed on.
The UK Government has chosen to opt out of the European law, meaning that teenagers under 16 will not have to obtain their parents’ permission to use Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, as well as other social media channels.
Under EU proposals, the age of consent for using internet services that collect personal data would be set at 16 instead of 13, even though the latter is the current age of consent for internet usage in the majority of countries across the world.
Conservative MEP Timothy Kirkhope, who was involved in leading negotiations for the European Conservatives and Reformists group, said: “Concerns have been listened to and the UK’s age of consent will not be forced to change”.
Had the standard age been raised to 16 it would have meant that significant changes would have been implemented by internet services and apps including Google and Twitter, which have a minimum age set at 13.
Facebook – the world’s largest social media channel – has had its minimum age requirement set at 13 since 2006, after lowering it from 17.
Online companies’ failure to follow age laws can result in severe financial penalties that range up to 4 per cent of their global turnover, which can equate to tens of millions of pounds.