When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

A Legal Age For Facebook? Parenting And The Rise Of Social Media

How long can you hold him?
How long can you hold him?
Massimo Russo

TURIN — In Brussels, it doesn't matter if your 8-year-olds have a smartphone in their pockets with more computing power than the Rosetta space probe. The European Union passed a regulation this month that raised the legal age for the use of social media to 16, requiring parental consent before teenagers can open Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and email accounts.

The Byzantine nature of Brussels, and the need to make every member-nation happy, means the new privacy reforms allow different countries to establish different domestic ages. Poland, for one, had pushed for an even higher legal age.

And yet, in establishing regulations that require explicit parental consent, the EU again shows just how far removed it is from the daily lives of its citizens: 70% of European 13-year-olds are already on Facebook. A recent poll revealed that the average age of people signing up for the first time is even lower, at 12. But when politicians think they can change the world with a flurry of new laws, nothing can stop them.

In an age where kids spend more time on the Internet than outside the home, the real question for families across the continent is how do we turn our children into good digital citizens.

Teenagers today exchange homework on Facebook messenger, organize their free time on WhatsApp, comment on photos and Christmas presents on Instagram and Pinterest, share on Snapchat and Tumblr, and challenge far-flung rival players across the globe on video game consoles. Don't recognize some of these strange names? Well, that's the point.

My father walked me to my first day of primary school, showing me which traffic light crossing I should take, so I would know how to go on my own from then on. Today, parents are struggling to do the equivalent for the digital lives of their children. They see dangers everywhere, in part because it can all seem so unfamiliar, and end up arbitrarily setting limits on their kids' use of a smartphone they may have just given them as a present.

False security

Too often, we end up forgetting a fundamental principle of parenting: giving responsibility is the best way to ensure maturity. We must follow our children along their digital paths. We need to sit by their side and discover how to change privacy settings and make sure that photos and comments remain accessible only to others their age. We should teach them to think twice before clicking "publish," and tell them that behind their screens lie real people that deserve just as much respect as they do in the real world.

The Internet is a web of webs, at once local and global, something which is not often understood by today's teens. They believe they are sheltered, only talking to their friends, mindless of the fact that their thoughts and posts will remain online forever.

Article 2 of the Italian Parliament's "Declaration of Internet Rights" states that "access to Internet is a fundamental personal right and required for full individual and societal development."

Danah Boyd, a renowned scholar of teenagers' use of social networks, disagrees with the EU's push for "a regime of norms that produce age-based restrictions." Instead, she says we must all take a step back and help our children become "responsible digital citizens," and begin a public conversation on how to parent in the digital age.

Looking for a good place to start? This evening, when your kids come home from school, try asking them: "How was Facebook today?"

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

A Profound And Simple Reason That Negotiations Are Not An Option For Ukraine

The escalation of war in the Middle East and the stagnation of the Ukrainian counteroffensive have left many leaders in the West, who once supported Ukraine unequivocally, to look toward ceasefire talks with Russia. For Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza, Piotr Andrusieczko argues that Ukraine simply cannot afford this.

Photo of Ukrainian soldiers in winter gear, marching behind a tank in a snowy landscape

Ukrainian soldiers ploughing through the snow on the frontlines

Volodymyr Zelensky's official Facebook account
Piotr Andrusieczko


KYIVUkraine is fighting for its very existence, and the war will not end soon. What should be done in the face of this reality? How can Kyiv regain its advantage on the front lines?

It's hard to deny that pessimism has been spreading among supporters of the Ukrainian cause, with some even predicting ultimate defeat for Kyiv. It's difficult to agree with this, considering how this war began and what was at stake. Yes, Ukraine has not won yet, but Ukrainians have no choice for now but to continue fighting.

For the latest news & views from every corner of the world, Worldcrunch Today is the only truly international newsletter. Sign up here.

These assessments are the result of statements by the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, and an interview with him in the British weekly The Economist, where the General analyzes the causes of failures on the front, notes the transition of the war to the positional phase, and, critically, evaluates the prospects and possibilities of breaking the deadlock.

Earlier, an article appeared in the American weekly TIME analyzing the challenges facing President Volodymyr Zelensky. His responses indicate that he is disappointed with the attitude of Western partners, and at the same time remains so determined that, somewhat lying to himself, he unequivocally believes in victory.

Combined, these two publications sparked discussions about the future course of the conflict and whether Ukraine can win at all.

Some people outright predict that what has been known from the beginning will happen: Russia will ultimately win, and Ukraine has already failed.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest