French children under the age of 16 will require parental approval to open an account on Facebook or any other social network under draft legislation presented on Wednesday.
The clamp-down on Facebook use for the young is part of a French bill that seeks to adapt data privacy regulations and improve access to the information internet companies gather, store and in many cases sell to other firms about people’s online activity.
“Joining Facebook will involve parental authorisation for minors aged under 16,” said Nicole Belloubet, the French justice minister.
The minister said signing up to join a social network would involve ticking a box to confirm that approval from parents or rightful guardians had been obtained, and that the box-tick amounted to a declaration governed by law.
It was not clear how enforceable such a process would be. Questions remain on how social media sites verify the true age of those who sign up, and what will happen to existing accounts of those under 16.
Currently Facebook requires users to be at least 13, but in reality many pre-teenagers sign up and declare they are old enough to use the service.
The minister’s comments came as she outlined a data privacy bill that was approved at a weekly cabinet meeting. The draft bill must be passed by parliament before it can become law.
It aims to ensure easier access for users to all the data companies collect so they can more easily seek to have certain details amended or deleted.
In another high-profile move to restrict social media use for the young, French education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said this week that mobile phones would be banned in schools from the start of the next school year.
Use of mobile phones is already forbidden in classrooms, so the ban would likely cover their use during breaks and at lunchtime.
Mr Blanquer told RTL radio that his ministry was working out the details, but some schools already had a full ban, proving that it could be done though some exceptions had to be made for teaching or emergency purposes.