EU member calls for bloc-wide age restriction on social media use

Denmark’s PM says Brussels should impose a 15+ age limit to protect children from adverse content and screen addiction

Only children over age 15 should be able to register on social media platforms in the European Union, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has suggested.

The measure would help shield children from inappropriate content and the negative effects of screen addiction, Frederiksen wrote on Sunday in a piece for the Danish newspaper Politiken which she co-authored with EU lawmaker Christel Schaldemose.

Social media giants like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok require users to be at least 13 to sign up. The age limit requirement imposed by such companies stems from US legislation dating back to 1998 and bans the collection of children’s personal data without parental consent.

Frederiksen argued that 13-year-olds are too young to create social media profiles, stressing that the risks facing children on such networks are too great. She highlighted that the age restriction must come with effective verification tools, adding that tech giants currently aren’t taking responsibility for it.

The Danish prime minister and her co-author noted that the Digital Services Act (DSA) package, a content-moderation guide adopted by the EU member states two years ago, has proven to be insufficient in regulating social media platforms. They urged the bloc’s authorities to tighten the current legislation, having called for a ban on addictive designs and advertising which targets minors, as well as for a mandatory notification telling users how much time they spend online.

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The proposal comes a month after an expert panel commissioned by French President Emmanuel Macron proposed barring the use of social media apps by anyone under 15, saying that minors over that age should only have access to platforms which have been deemed “ethical.” The expert group, headed by neurologist Servane Mouton and psychiatry professor Amine Benyamina, also proposed taking the necessary steps to tighten rules for tech companies.

The report presented by the experts found that excessive screen time substantially damages children’s health, impacting sleep, causing child obesity and increasing risks of anxiety and depression.

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