Cabinet agrees to set ‘digital age of consent’ at 13

Ireland is required to harmonise its laws with a European directive on data protection

The Cabinet decided on Wednesday that the so-called “digital age of consent” should be set at 13.

This refers to age from which it is legal for data controllers to hold data gathered from minors. 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 25th next year.


Speaking at the post-Cabinet briefing, the Government spokesman said member states could set their own “digital age of consent” within a window from 13 years of age to 16, “and we’ve gone for the lower end”.

The Children’s Rights Alliance, which represents more than 100 organisations involved in children’s welfare, had recommended setting the limit at “the lowest age possible”.

In anopinion piece in The Irish Times this week, Ian Power, executive director of youth information website and president of the National Youth Council of Ireland, also backed this approach.

He noted a digital age of consent of 13 was “already official policy in the US”, and highlighted existing children’s rights including the freedom of expression and association.

“There are those who will point to the vital role of parents and guardians in tempering these rights with concern for their child’s security,” he added.

“It is true that parents and guardians have a significant role to play: the ideal will always be that children’s rights and parental responsibilities go hand-in-hand. Yet it is no great difficulty to imagine a scenario in which a young person’s rights are directly harmed by an abusive or neglectful parent. In such cases, the ability to access online services in confidence is an incomparable tool for securing help and support.”

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan is Features Editor of The Irish Times