WhatsApp lowers minimum age to 13 in the UK, paving the way for millions of new users on chat app

a hand holds a smartphone with the whatsapp app icon on the homescreen

WhatsApp has changed the minimum age for its messaging service in the UK and Europe for the first time, lowering the age to 13 years-old

Aaron Brown

By Aaron Brown

Published: 18/02/2024

- 03:00

It brings the UK and Europe in line with other countries around the world, including the United States

  • WhatsApp has dropped the minimum age from 16 to 13 years-old
  • It follows a number of other changes to comply with the EU's Digital Services Act

WhatsApp has dropped the minimum age for its messaging service from 16 to 13 in the UK and mainland Europe. It follows a similar shift in other countries, including Australia and the USA.

Meta, the parent company that owns WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram, says it made the change to “ensure a consistent minimum age requirement for WhatsApp globally”.

Although the minimum age for WhatsApp was listed as 16+ on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store in the UK, the system relied entirely on honesty. Meta didn’t have any checks to enforce its age restriction limit during the set-up process, which requires an active phone number.

With the drop to 13 years old, WhatsApp has kept the set-up process identical. It’s only the terms and conditions that have been changed in the latest tweak.

It paves the way for more younger users to begin messaging friends and family with WhatsApp. The chat app, which was purchased by Meta for a record $21.8 billion in 2014, is the most popular on the planet, with a total of over 2.7 billion users.

However, WhatsApp struggles to compete with Snapchat when it comes to younger users. Snapchat is an ephemeral messaging service that pioneered several features that are now staples in Meta’s products, including daily Stories. Its biggest demographic is aged between 15-25, with some estimates that this age group makes up almost 50% of its users.

As well as the change to its age restriction, WhatsApp has announced a handful of changes to its small print following the introduction of the EU’s Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act.

Meta has confirmed these changes will have no impact on end-to-end encryption. A spokesperson for WhatsApp said: “These updates for users in the European Region do not change our commitment to user privacy and do not expand any data sharing when messaging other WhatsApp users. Wherever you are in the world, we protect all personal messages with end-to-end encryption, which means no one, not even WhatsApp, can read or listen to them.”

WhatsApp has teased a major change to its platform, which is set to launch later this year, that will allow users to send messages to other apps for the first time.

Known as “interoperability”, it’s confirmed that WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger users will be able to send texts to one another without switching between services. However, it’s not known whether other platforms ― including those not owned by Meta ― will support the changes.

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