BRUSSELS - Popular messaging service WhatsApp is banning under-16s from using its platform in the European Union.
Users must currently be at least 13, but the firm is changing the rules ahead of the introduction of new EU data privacy regulations in May.
The app, which is owned by Facebook, will ask users to confirm their age when prompted to agree new terms of service in the next few weeks.
It has not said how the age limit will be enforced.
At present, WhatsApp does not ask users their age when they join, nor does it cross-reference their Facebook or Instagram accounts to find out.
About a third of all UK-based 12- to 15-year-olds active on social media use WhatsApp, according to a 2017 report by the media regulator Ofcom.
That made it the fifth most popular social network with the age group after Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube.
The EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into force on 25 May, will give people much more control over how companies use their information.
They will also have the right to have personal data erased.
It also includes specific rules to protect children from having their personal data collected for marketing purposes, or to create user profiles.
WhatsApp, which has faced scrutiny for its data sharing practices in the past, said its move would help it meet the "new high standards of transparency" in the EU.
However, the app plans to keep its age limit at 13 in the rest of the world.(FA)