WhatsApp Minimum Age Reduced to 13 in Europe

picture of WhatsApp reducing minimum age to 13 in Europe

Meta social media powerhouse, has stirred controversy by reducing the minimum age requirement for WhatsApp in Europe from 16 to 13, a move that has drawn criticism from advocates for children’s rights.

Meta’s strategy to expand its global user base involves continually reducing the age limit for its platforms. This is seen in its decision to lower WhatsApp’s minimum age in Europe from 16 to 13.

This change in age restriction, which took effect in the European Union on Thursday, aligns with the announcement made in February for users in the United Kingdom. Meta, which acquired WhatsApp a decade ago, asserts on its website that this adjustment ensures “a consistent minimum age requirement for WhatsApp globally.”

The decision to reduce the age limit has ignited backlash from children’s rights advocates in the UK. They argue that it exposes young people to a myriad of well-documented online risks. Daisy Greenwell, co-founder of the UK-based campaign group Smartphone Free Childhood, condemned the move, stating, “WhatsApp is prioritizing shareholder profits over children’s safety.” She further criticized the decision as “completely tone-deaf,” highlighting the growing concerns raised by scientists, doctors, teachers, child safety experts, parents, and mental health professionals regarding the detrimental effects of social media use on children.

In response to the criticism, a WhatsApp spokesperson told CNN correspondent that they provide users with options to control who can add them to groups. Additionally, they offer the ability to block and report accounts when receiving messages from unknown numbers.

Interestingly, in a press release unrelated to the change in WhatsApp’s age policy in Europe, Meta announced on Thursday that it was testing new features aimed at protecting young people from the dangers of “sextortion” and “intimate image abuse.” The company hopes these features will make it more challenging for potential scammers and criminals to target and interact with teenagers.

This move by Meta to lower age restrictions is not new. The company has faced criticism in the past for its efforts to reduce age restrictions across its platforms, particularly in the United States. Internal communications suggested that as part of an ongoing lawsuit against the company, there are some instances where CEO Mark Zuckerberg sometimes directly ignored some of his senior executives who advocated for greater protections for adolescents.

The decision to lower the age limit for WhatsApp in Europe reflects Meta’s ongoing efforts to expand its user base and maximize engagement on its platforms. However, it also underscores the challenges and concerns surrounding children’s safety in the digital age.

Advocates for children’s rights continue to push for stricter regulations and better protections to safeguard young users from the potential harms of social media. As the debate over online safety and privacy intensifies, it remains to be seen how policymakers and tech companies will address these complex issues in the future.

Despite the controversy surrounding Meta’s decision, the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, has yet to issue a comment on the matter.

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