Interview: “At five years old we already give them a cell phone, how do we then explain to them that they won't be able to use it until they're 16?”

75% of fathers and mothers publish images of their children on social networks. And at least 8 out of 10 followers are completely unknown to them. Yes to this We add cyberbullying, grooming, access to objectionable content for minors, and the consequences on their mental health.…, the new law for the protection of minors on the internet seemed necessary, but is it being done well? We talked about it with Susana González Ruisánchez, a lawyer specializing in Technology Law.

“The law seems pretty good to me – he explains to us in a telephone conversation – another thing is that it still has flaws. She will be defined over time, with his amendments. They supposedly have sent her to a group of experts to treat her better. There are very interesting things and other countercurrents. For example, it catches my attention that they increase the age from 14 to 16 years to authorize the processing of your data. Yes, I think it's good that platforms limit content, especially in relation to pornographic material. That parents have the default option to limit the hours of use, but that it be raised to 16 years, when at this age they can also voluntarily terminate pregnancy, it perplexes me. You cannot have a Gmail account or a social media account, but you can voluntarily terminate the pregnancy.”

And, according to this law, the age to open an account on a social network increases from 14 to 16 years old. Before turning 16, minors must request the consent of mothers, fathers or legal guardians. Of course this is an idyllic setting: They can open an account under another name and say they are over 16 years old. Who will control it?

“There is a problem here – adds this expert -. At five years old we already give the child the cell phone, so that he lets us sit quietly on a terrace. It's something we see every day. This part of raising family awareness must be worked on.. And then don't tell the child that they cannot use their cell phones for social networks until they are 16. When are you going to cut it if they've been giving it to them since they were five?”

When the bill was presented, Minister Félix Bolaños assured that “the cases in which it will be possible to judicially authorize the interruption of services or content are expanded.” This is because, until now, justice scould only act for reasons of intellectual property protection. That would change if the interests of the minor are violated.

“The whole issue of guaranteeing rights seems very good to me – adds Ruisánchez -. But we must keep in mind that we already have a law on the protection and right to privacy of minors that is generic in many ways and could be applicable to any of the circumstances that exist now, whether digital or not. Those rights were already guaranteed, the support did not matter.. This is an organic bill because it will regulate a fundamental right that is contemplated in the Constitution, it is the protection of minors. And now we will have another law and the one that already exists will have to be reformed. The logical thing will be to make a specific section, but not make a new one.”

Although European references are not abundant in this section, the EU looks very closely at this project because, as in other sections, such as the animal protection law, they can set precedents. One of the objectives is create a protocol for identifying uses that affect the mental health of minors.

“I suppose we will have funds from Europe to use in training, awareness, actions at school and in health aspects – confirms Ruisánchez -. This is progress: raising awareness among family members as well as minors and adolescents, especially because if not they get informed elsewhere. There is also the issue of early detection and specific pathologies due to the excessive use of mobile devices or psychological problems that may have arisen due to sexting, grooming or harassment, which is also interesting.”

Of course, not everything is positive and, just as technology advances, laws will have to adapt to certain social practices. One of them is own responsibility, especially that linked to what one publishes on social networks.

“The section on taking responsibility for what one publishes is not sufficiently developed – agrees Ruisánchez, who gives lectures on new technology, the internet and artificial intelligence -. I understand that it is like that. In fact, they do nothing more than reproduce what the platforms say: you You have to be responsible for what you publish, what you comment and what you spread, to such an extent that it is already in the criminal code and it may be a crime to disseminate certain content. This is already contemplated with regulations that already exist.”

Is a new law necessary then? If we already have one that protects minors and it is only necessary to adapt it to the internet, what is the objective? To this we would have to add the training of judges, for example.

“Identifying the risks in this sense is very important – concludes Ruisánchez -. The new law tends to enhance this for everyone: for families and for minors, and in terms of prohibitions it seems very restrictive to me. Introducing grooming as an aggravating circumstance will make it easier for when someone goes to court and has to explain what it is and start proving things that the judge does not see as criminalized, the judge will have to know. The problem is that we still do not have specialized judges and many trial judges are already pointing this out.”