It’s a day ending in “Y,” so the EU is doing something idiotic again. Seriously, I don’t understand how a theoretically enlightened collaborative of liberal-leaning nations can get together and be so pants-on-head stupid about the internet. And yet.
Just before Christmas, the civil liberties and home affairs committee of the European Parliament voted for a measure that requires companies that want to obtain and store information from anyone under the age of 16 to get consent from one of the children’s parents. This functionally serves to ban children under the age of 16 from using social media (Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, etc.) without that express parental consent.
In theory, this measure is supposed to protect the identities and privacy of children. And, for those of you who think that the internet in general, and social media in particular, is an Awful Wasteland Where Nothing Good Ever Happens, this probably strikes you as a commonsense move.
Spoiler alert: it isn’t.
First of all, in spite of whatever scaremongering panic-of-the week you’re worried about (cyberbullying, rainbow parties, ISIS recruiters), the internet produces more good than harm. It is a valuable lifeline for children to gain knowledge, communicate with their peers, and learn about new ideas.
Second of all, how they expect to enforce this law, I have no earthly idea. I mean, there is technically a “digital age of consent” in the United States, which enforces extra privacy protections for children under 13. Thus, those under 13 can’t use Facebook, full stop. And, obviously, you don’t see too many under-13s poking their way around the internet…
There is no way, short of handcuffs and physical restraint, that you can prevent a child from using social media. In this issue, the EU Parliament, as it so often does, comes across like a well-meaning but entirely clueless parent.
[Post image via Shutterstock]