Belfast Telegraph

Varadkar backs 13 as digital age of consent

Children under 13 should not be allowed to sign up to gaming and social media without parental approval, Leo Varadkar has said.

After consultation and advice from children's charities, Tusla, the Children's Ombudsman and NGOs on new legislation, the Taoiseach said it was decided that 13 should be the digital age of consent.

The Government opened a consultation on the age issue last November.

"We agreed that the age should be 13 ... There was extensive consultation over and back and in the end we took the advice of organisations like the Children's Ombudsman, Tusla and different charities and NGOs in the sector and we went with that," the Fine Gael leader said.

The digital age of consent refers to the age from which it is legal for data controllers to hold data gathered from minors.

Under new legislation parental consent will be required up to the age of 13 and after that age from the individual.

Ireland is required to introduce a series of legislative measures in order to harmonise its laws with a European directive on data protection.

The EU General Data Protection Regulation will come into effect on May 25 2018.

Mr Varadkar also called on tech companies to do more to protect children from online paedophiles, criminals and bullies.

"I'm very conscious of the extent to which bullying has changed since you and I were kids.

"When we were kids, when it came to bullying, at least you could escape it, at least you could go home or you knew there was somewhere to hide.

"But the difference now is that this content and this form of bullying and intimidation can come with you everywhere you go.

"I definitely do think the tech companies could do more in this space," said Mr Varadkar.

He added: "What we are asking for is for tech companies to step up to the plate and to do a bit more to protect people."

The Taoiseach said, however, that he is nervous "of anything that involves restrictions on freedom of speech or the government trying to regulate the internet".

"I would just be very loath to go down that road unless it would work - and bear in mind this is the world wide web so national laws don't necessarily work - and secondly that it would actually be effective," he said.

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