French MPs support age restrictions for teenagers on social media

French MPs have backed a bill to reaffirm a minimum digital age of 15 for new accounts on prominent social media platforms.

People under this age need parental verification to access apps like TikTok and Snapchat.

The bill also says parents cannot give children under the age of 13 permission to create accounts except on certain “accepted platforms.”

There are no details on how this will be implemented or enforced, although companies that fail to comply face fines of up to 1% of global sales.

The draft law comes alongside a number of recent initiatives to promote “digital wellbeing” in France, particularly for children.

High number of children on social media apps

The bill passed Thursday morning (March 2) at first reading with near-unanimous support (82 votes to two) after being tabled by MP Laurent Marcangeli, and will now go to the Senate.

It aims to combat the large number of young children on popular social media apps where they may encounter sensitive material not intended for their age group.

According to the regulator CNIL (Commission national de l’informatique et des libertés), more than half of children between the ages of 10 and 14 use social media apps, and the average age at which a child registers for a social media app , is now eight years and a half.

During the debate, MPs also agreed on a list of online risks the bill aims to protect children from, including pornography, cyberbullying, unattainable standards of beauty and “addictive ways to attract attention”.

The idea of ​​digital age restrictions is not new – a law was passed in France in 2018 to apply European legislation on the subject. This required parental consent to the processing of children’s personal data. The new bill aims to restrict online use.

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implementation difficulties?

Difficulties in applying the restrictions may affect the good intentions of the bill.

Walking a tightrope between enforcing proposed restrictions and complying with personal data protection can present numerous challenges for social media companies.

Popular photo-sharing app Instagram is testing a facial recognition system to verify the age of new users, but doing so requires permission for the app to access the user’s phone and may violate privacy regulations.

A set of new digital laws

On Monday (March 6), MEPs will discuss another bill relating to the excessive exposure of young people to screens, updating the French public health code to include a chapter on the subject and recommending that the subject at babies to discuss books.

A bill relating to the posting of pictures of children on social media will also be discussed in March.

On average, 1,300 photos are posted online of every single child before the age of 13 (either of themselves, friends or family), according to MP Bruno Studer.

France will also be the first country to make parental controls the default setting for mobile phones sold in stores, with the change coming sometime in 2023.

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