TDs backed a Fianna Fáil and Labour amendment to set the age at 16
The Government has been defeated over its proposal for the digital age of consent to remain at 13.
TDs instead voted in favour of a Fianna Fáil and Labour amendment to set the age at 16, which was passed by 56 votes to 51.
The digital age of consent refers to the age at which a child can consent to use online services.
Children's right groups had previously called plans to raise the age of consent "very concerning".
A number of commentators criticised the Dáil vote, claiming TDs had ignored the stance of many experts and young people.
John Buckley, a Child Safety Investigator at Facebook, suggested a change to 16 would see a 'huge increase' in young people lying about their age to access digital services.
16 as digital age of consent. Expect a huge increase in age liars (where child can’t get parental consent or doesn’t want to ask for it), reducing platforms abilities to be able to provide age appropriate products + protections (e.g. preventing adults from connecting with minors)— John Buckley (@JohnDaveBuckley) May 16, 2018
Fianna Fáil TD and education spokesperson Thomas Byrne defended the decision:
None of the submissions for 13 seemed to me to grasp that the digital age of consent relates to a contract to process the personal data of the teen - rather it is seen as an issue of participatory rights. That in our view is not a correct interpretation of what is at stake— Thomas Byrne (@ThomasByrneTD) May 16, 2018
Speaking earlier this week, Mary Cunningham - director of the National Youth Council of Ireland - argued: "Education and a focus on developing critical thinking will be far more useful tools for young people, and the adults in their lives, than an increased digital age of consent which risks providing a false sense of security.
“There is so much more that can and should be done to help protect young people online. We need to focus our energies here rather than letting ourselves get distracted by the current debates around age limits."
While the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) - which comes into effect this month - sets a digital age of consent at 16 years, member states have the option of setting their own age limit at no lower than 13 years.