The Government has been defeated on its proposal to set the digital age of consent at 13, following calls from the opposition for it to be 16. 

Under the EU's new General Data Protection Regulation, EU members can set a digital age of consent of between 13 and 16.

The digital age of consent is the age at which it is legal to hold data on children and teenagers that is gathered online.

During a debate on the Data Protection Bill, a Fianna Fáil and Labour amendment to set the age at 16 was passed by 56 votes to 51. 

During today's debate, Sinn Féin's Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said 16 was more appropriate, when children will have reached a greater level of maturity. However, he acknowledged that this was not a silver bullet for protecting children online.

Labour's Sean Sherlock said the digital age of consent only applied when personal data was being processed. But he said children under the digital age of consent should be provided with platforms that do not exploit their personal data.

Indepent4Change TD Clare Daly supported the Government's proposal to have 13 as the digital age of consent.

She said setting the age at 16 was the modern equivalent of the "just say no" approach, adding that it could deny children access to important services.

Fianna Fáil TD Thomas Byrne said children would not be limited from participating online.

"If someone is profiled without their consent, the penalty is not on the child or the parent. The penalty is on the tech company," he said. 

Independent4Change also tabled amendments, along with Sinn Féin, to make it an offence for companies to micro-target and profile children. This was also carried.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said the proposal to set the age at 13 was the result of careful consideration and wide consultation.

"Ireland will be firmly in line with many other EU states such as Denmark Finland and Sweden ... countries that more than most we look to for examples of good practice in the areas of child support and child protection," he said.