WHATSAPP AGE UK: The messaging service, which is Facebook-owned, is raising their age limit from 13 – up to 16. This is due in part to the new EU date privacy regulations.
The revamp in the rules means many youngsters will need to grow up a bit more before they can chat with their friends on WhatsApp.
A block on under 16-year-olds takes place for WhatsApp users in Europe.
It comes as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admits that increased social media regulation is an inevitable process.
The end-to-end encrypted messaging platform collects a limited amount of data from its members. Even so, it is not yet clear how the company will enforce the new age restrictions.
Acceptance grants access to their freeware and cross-platform messaging and Voice over IP service. Even so, the company has not yet confirmed how answers given by members will get verified.
Giving a False Date of Birth to WhatsApp
WhatsApp (and Facebook) do not currently perform any checks on a person’s age when signing up. That means they have no way of ensuring the applicant is ‘underage’ and not lying about their age.
Facebook is claiming they will start asking for parental consent for minors aged 13 to 15 who want to use their platform. Without the permission, young teenagers would not see a ‘full’ personalised version.
Even so, many of these social media platforms have no way of confirming parental permission. Thus, how can they be sure that genuine parents or guardians are the people providing the consent.
Note: The same principle applies to the WhatsApp Messenger service. It would not be difficult to lie about your date of birth when you accept their revamped rules on age limits.
Even so, the minimum age for using the WhatsApp app still stands at 13 for children outside of Europe.
NSPCC Welcome the Changes with Caution
NSPCC stands for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. They welcome the changes, but with some trepidation.
Their main concern was for WhatsApp to clear up any confusion on how they will regulate the new age restriction policy. Further comments from the NSPCC addressed the ‘wild west web’:
“We need tough new data protection rules to keep children safe. But, we also know that children enjoy interacting on social media. Thus, it is vital that these platforms do as much as they can to ensure safety for their users.”
“We need to be very clear how Whatsapp will enforce the under 16s age limit and what it will look like. At present [April 2018], children should be at least 13 years old to open a social media account.
But, we also know that child rules and regulations are being broken. Recent statistics show that half of all 12 year olds already have at least one account open on a social media platform.”
“Data protection is an important part of the bigger picture. Police records highlight the use of Facebook apps in the majority of grooming cases [in the previous 9 months]. This is why the NSPCC called on the Culture Secretary to regulate the social networks. They want to see an end to what they call the ‘wild west web’.”
Data Protection for 1.5Billion WhatsApp Users
WhatsApp claim to have over 1.5billion users. They said collecting personal information is not asking for any new data. It is part of an agreement especially created for the European Union market.
The company blogged a post saying their goal is to explain how they use and protect the limited information that they have about their users. They also used the opportunity to announce several other changes.
One of them was enabling users to download their own personal data (much like Facebook and Instagram). This information would include:
- The make and model of the device used.
- The user’s contacts and groups.
- Picture and videos.
- A list of blocked numbers.
Statistics on Children and Social Media
Despite all this WhatsApp continues to draw plenty of criticism. Many claim these types of social media platforms have a negative impact on young users. The justification for the criticism stems from some alarming statistics on children and social media:
- A CBBC survey of 1,200 youngsters aged between 10 and 18 showed 96% had signed up to social media networks.
- An interview with those under 13 suggested 78% had joined at least one social network – despite not meeting the legal age limits.
- A study in January 2018 found that many teens with an addiction to Instagram, Snapchat, and WhatsApp are likely to be sleep deprived.
WhatsApp Privacy Campaign Launched in the UK
Messages can only be viewed and read on the actual device that sends and receives it – thanks to WhatsApp’s use of end-to-end encryption.
After launching a privacy campaign in the United Kingdom and in Germany, WhatsApp (and its parent company Facebook) cannot view or intercept the messages (including law enforcement).
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