Social media minimum age increase
EU has proposed anyone under the age of 16 will need permission from parents to use social networksGetty Images

Teenagers in Europe are starting to panic after a change in EU legislation has proposed that anyone under the age of 16 must get permission from parents if they want to use Facebook, Snapchat and WhatsApp.

The proposal to raise the age of digital consent from 13 to 16 means anyone who is using, or wants to use social media and messaging apps, uses search engines or writes blog posts will be banned from doing so unless they obtain the consent from parents, which takes the form of box they must tick.

The changes to Europe's data protection regulation were put through quietly at the last minute stating: "The processing of personal data of a child below the age of 16 years shall only be lawful if and to the extent that such consent is given or authorised by the holder of parental responsibility over the child."

Not only are teenagers horrified at this news but also tech giants are up in arms, with Google, Facebook and Twitter all joining forces to lobby against the proposal. It would be a huge blow to social media companies with teens being a huge portion of their user base and, in the case of Snapchat particularly, were instrumental in early adoption that saw the service skyrocket.

A Change.org petition has been set up by the Diana Award Youth Board to campaign against the move, stating "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."

One could question whether the new law would make any difference at all. Even though services like Facebook have had an age restriction of 13, those even younger have found a way around by simply lying about their age. Should parents' permission be needed, we wonder how easy it would be for those under 16 to find a way to leap this hurdle.

The proposal is set to be discussed on 15 December before going to a vote on 17 December.