EU politicians: Don't ban teenagers from using the Internet
With the new law that the European Union wants to pass this week, young people wouldn't even be able to sign this very petition.
The European Parliament/Commission/EU Policy Makers are thinking of introducing a new rule under the European General Data Protection Regulation which would mean young people aged 16 and under would need to ask permission from their parents before they use any services related to the internet.
A last-minute change to the draft of Article 8 of the European General Data Protection Regulation would mean that children under 16 would have to get their parents' consent every time they want to use "information society services"-- like using search engines, downloading an app, writing blog posts, or sending messages to friends on social media sites. Earlier, EU politicians had set the age of consent to 13.
Young people aged 13 and above already use the Internet to research school work, socialise and help them understand more about themselves and the world around them. For many young people the Internet is a source of help and support, especially for confidential issues like abuse and sexual orientation. Young people have a right to privacy to access this information on the internet sites without involving their parents at every step of the way.
We don't believe young people should be required to seek their parents’ consent every time they use a new app or website.
If this law passes, young people wouldn't even be able to sign this very petition. EU politicians have ignored the views of young people, parents, child safety experts and charities/NGOs in coming to this hasty decision.
We are urging those involved to stop and listen to stakeholders before allowing such a change to go through. There's still time to change the age of consent back to 13.
1. Get involved on social media using the hashtags #13To16Privacy #KidsPrivacy
2. Sign this petition to encourage EU policy makers to rethink their decision this week.
3. Find out more information: http:/http://www.antibullyingpro.com/blog/2015/12/11/letter-expressing-concern-to-the-draft-general-data-protection-regulation-13to16/www.antibullyingpro.com/blog/2015/12/11/letter-expressing-concern-to-the-draft-general-data-protection-regulation-13to16
Thank you for your support
- European Parliament
- Marc Hansen
- Claude Meisch
- Xavier Bettel
We are very concerned to learn of a modification to the wording of the draft General Data Protection Regulation requiring anyone under the age of 16 to secure parental consent before using information society services. If this is indeed the case then we, as organisations and experts working for the safety and wellbeing of children online, wish to protest in the strongest terms and request that you urgently reconsider this decision. We have a considerable amount of expertise to bring to bear on questions of when it is and is not in the interests of children to require parental consent.
As you are aware, the text of the General Data Protection Regulation has been under consideration now for a period of nearly 4 years, since January 2012, and we have taken a keen interest in this process. The original version of the text proposed by the European Commission and the amended European Parliament text set the age requirement for parental consent at 13 for children wishing to use information society services. If the intention now is to move the age from 13 to 16, then this is a major shift in policy on which there has been no public consultation, at least that we are aware of.
The consequences of the proposed change are very significant for European society. These are some of the areas that we think need to be discussed further before any such change should be considered.
This change is contrary to well-established research on child development. Navigating the online world as an adolescent or parent is certainly not without challenges. As children reach adolescence, they are curious about the world around them and are learning how to express themselves and interact safely and confidently with friends online. Adolescents need guidance from their parents and other trusted adults, and online services should work to provide tools that help adolescents make the right choices about their safety and privacy. But child development experts know that, given the right tools and guidance, adolescents can develop critical skills of self-expression and relationship management in the online environment. Recent surveys have indicated that teenagers are by and large very knowledgeable about how to control the information they share online—more so than many adults. Research has also shown that schools play an important role in guiding children and teens in the safe and responsible use of information society platforms such as social media (cfhttp://www.eun.org/teaching/smile). As society, including government institutions, is increasingly using social media to disseminate important information, such platforms play an integral role in developing literacy skills for young people preparing to play their role in the world of today and tomorrow. The added layer of bureaucracy required to procure parental permission before any teacher could use information society tools in class would undermine any possibility of schools fulfilling this role, and at the same time stop the valuable flow of guidance that young people are able to take home to parents and siblings.
Raising the age to 16 ignores many years of industry best practice around offering online services to children aged 13 and above. Given the prevalence of the Internet in modern society, adolescents aged 13 and above have long used online services to access important information about current events, conduct research for their schoolwork, and express themselves on issues of social, political and cultural importance without being required to seek their parents’ consent every time they use a new app or website. These are fundamental rights, as expressed in articles 12, 13 and 14 of the UNCRC, which also underlines the importance of children having the right to have their voice heard in a decision that impacts on their future such as age requirements for parental consent.
Children aged 13 and above shouldn’t be restricted from accessing critical online support services. Sadly, we know that some parents do not always act in their child’s best interests. The Internet can represent a lifeline for children to get the help they need when they are suffering from abuse, living with relatives who are addicted to drugs or alcohol, or seeking confidential LGBT support services, to name a few. Although the proposed recital 29 makes an exception for direct counselling services, we know that peer support through media platforms often plays a positive role for young people under physical or mental duress.
This higher age threshold may incentivize children between the ages of 13 and 15 to lie about their age. Children aged 13 and above have long accessed online services; an artificial and sudden change to this threshold will likely result in many children between the ages of 13 and 15 lying about their ages in order to continue accessing online services-- rather than asking their parents to consent. This development would make it far more difficult for online services to offer children age-appropriate guidance and tools to ensure a safe and privacy-protective experience online.
By and large, online services have provided children with a safe place to explore and learn and indeed, according to renown researcher Dr David Finkelhor (http://www.pennlive.com/opinion/2014/12/heyparentsthekidsare_alrig.html), appear to have had a significantly positive impact. We would urge you to take the above elements into account and not make it more difficult for children aged 13 to 15 to continue using the Internet in these positive ways, as they have been doing for many years.
We understand the negotiations over the text are in their final stages and would ask you to reply to us at your earliest convenience to indicate whether you are supportive of the change from age 13 to 16 being made in this way without any public debate. If you are not happy with this outcome then we would urge you to use your voice in the negotiations to ensure either that the change is reversed or that the issue is reopened for a period of full debate in which experts like ourselves can participate.
Janice Richardson, expert to ITU and the Council of Europe, former coordinator of European Safer Internet network, Luxembourg
SOS il Telefono Azzurro, Italy
Family Online Safety Institute (UK)
Diana Award, UK
Pablo García Mexía, J.D., PhD.Digital Lawyer/University professor, Spain
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