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Social media – at what age should your child use Instagram, YouTube & Co.?

By February 5, 2021July 20th, 2022Parents' column

With the introduction of the European data protection regulation (EU GDPR), many social networks, video platforms and messengers have changed their terms of use. The minimum age also plays a significant role here. Under the heading “Special data protection for children”, the data protection clause states that children “deserve special protection for their data”. The rationale for this is that children may be less aware of “the risks, consequences, guarantees and their rights when processing personal data”.

The General Data Protection Regulation provides that the processing of personal data is legal only with the consent of the person concerned (Art.6 para.1a). Such consent can be given only from the age of 16. For children and teens who have not yet reached 16, parents or legal guardians must consent the child’s personal data processing.

New age restrictions for social media

To obtain consent to personal data processing, providers of online platforms can act as follows: either send their offer only to users over 16 years old or obtain consent from parents or legal guardians for young children. Consequently, mainstream social networks have new requirements for their use. Let’s take a look at the terms and data protection statements of some of them:


Instagram, which is part of Facebook, has a minimum registration age of 13. The terms do not provide any indication of obtaining parental consent. When creating a new Instagram profile, age is asked, but the information is not verified.


TikTok’s privacy policy specifies a minimum age of 13. However, for young people under 18, the app operators also require a parental consent statement by email, if required by local law. Age is requested during registration but is not verified in any way. We did a test registration, and there was no email request for parental consent.


The messaging service WhatsApp bypasses this problem and sets a minimum age of 16. Therefore, a parental declaration of consent is not required. Age control is carried out by simply pressing a key confirming that you are 16 years of age or older. No further age verification is performed.


The minimum age for Facebook is 13. The network does not provide information regarding whether parental consent is required to register children or teens under 16 years of age. A registered user under 16 years old can obtain parental consent to use some of the settings’ tools. The minimum age of 16 is essential for sensitive data such as religious and political beliefs and personalized ads. If users under 16 wish to provide this information, they must obtain parental consent.


The terms and conditions of the YouTube video platform state that users must be at least 16 years old to view videos on the platform. Use from the age of 13 is possible if parents create a family account for their children through Google Family Link. In principle, young people under the age of 18 always need parental consent to use YouTube. An exception is “YouTube Kids”: children of any age can use the offer.

Be sure to discuss using different social media with your children

It is not always possible to determine to what extent individual platforms check the minimum age or the method of obtaining parental consent, and whether they do it. Not all vendors make their terms of use transparent. Therefore, we advise parents to discuss the use of various social networks with their children and closely monitor which services the child uses and how.

It is important to remember that parental control is not only a way to protect your child from external risks. It is primarily a powerful tool for the formation of his personality. Lack or absence of parental control in childhood undermines the child’s trust in the world around them. Its overabundance in adolescence can cause loss of confidence in the parents themselves.

It is worth weakening control over the child already when he reaches school age. From now on, try to teach the child self-control, discuss with him what is useful for him and what is not. And don’t forget to explain why. Otherwise, he will never learn to make independent decisions. And often the child will even be afraid to do it.

Build trust in your relationship with your child. After all, if the child knows that he will find support in your person under any circumstances, he will soon become an independent person without being at the same time under your constant supervision.

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