WhatsApp lowers minimum age in Europe to 13

Meta, the parent company of WhatsApp, has stirred controversy by lowering the minimum age for WhatsApp users in Europe from 16 to 13, drawing criticism from advocates for children’s rights. This change, enforced in the European Union and previously announced in the United Kingdom, aims to establish a uniform global minimum age requirement for the messaging platform, as stated on Meta’s website.

However, this decision has sparked opposition from children’s rights advocates in the UK, who argue that it exposes young users to numerous documented online risks. Smartphone Free Childhood, a UK-based campaign group, condemned WhatsApp’s move, accusing the company of prioritizing shareholder profits over children’s safety.

Critics, including UK lawmaker Vicky Ford, labeled the decision as irresponsible, highlighting concerns about potential dangers young users may face online. Despite criticisms, WhatsApp defended its stance, emphasizing the user control options available for managing privacy and safety.

Meta has previously faced criticism for its efforts to lower age restrictions in the US. Last year, the company announced plans to reduce the minimum age for its virtual reality app from 13 to 10 years old, despite pressure from US lawmakers against marketing such services to younger users.

CNN reported that Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg had personally intervened to oppose initiatives aimed at improving the well-being of teens on Facebook and Instagram, the company’s other platforms. Internal communications revealed instances where Zuckerberg overruled senior executives advocating for greater protections for adolescents.