What is the legal minimum age in the UK?

by My Kent Family reporter

We all know that you can have sex at 16, drive at 17 and vote at 18, but children acquire legal rights to do things with almost every birthday. So arm yourself with the facts on what your kids can do ­and when...

At three

• Kids can play games rated PEGI 3, eg Despicable Me

At four

• They can watch films in the cinema or on video or DVD with a U certificate

At five

• At five, it's legal to give your children an alcoholic drink in the home

At seven

• Kids can play games rated PEGI 7

A list of 50 films children should see before they turn 11 has been published
A list of 50 films children should see before they turn 11 has been published

At 10

• In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, kids can run riot for two years longer than in Scotland, and 10 is the age at which any criminal behaviour will be dealt with by the courts

At 11

• Money­minded minors can open a current account, but need parental permission

At 12

• Kids can sit in the front seat of the car, provided they’re at least 1.35m tall

• Medical records can be read, as long as the doctor believes the child will understand them

• Watch a 12A film in the cinema or on video or DVD as long as accompanied by an adult

• Kids can play a game rated PEGI 12

At 13

• You may have been paying them for years to hoover and take the rubbish out, but at 13 a Saturday job becomes a possibility. Local byelaws vary but in Kent a 13­ or 14­-year-­old can work up to five hours on a Saturday, two hours on Sunday, two hours a day on a school day, five hours a day, except Sundays, in school holidays. The maximum number of working hours in a week is 12 in term time and 25 in school holidays. Children aren’t allowed to work before 7am or after 7pm. However, children can work in the entertainment industry younger than this, and specific rules apply.

• This is the minimum age for their own Facebook account, as well as Instagram, Pinterest, 

Tumblr, Kik, and Snapchat. Twitter doesn’t state a specific minimum age.

Children can play games rated PEGI 7 from the age of seven but have to be aged 14 to have an Instagram or Facebook account
Children can play games rated PEGI 7 from the age of seven but have to be aged 14 to have an Instagram or Facebook account

At 14

• Contrary to popular belief, this is not the minimum age for babysitting. Strangely, there is no set recommended minimum age for leaving someone in charge of children, although the NSPCC recommends 16.

• Kids can go to the pub, with adults, but can't drink alcohol or buy it

• They can enter a credit agreement ­with an adult guarantor

• It's now their responsibility to wear their seat belt, and they can be issued with a fine by police if they're not. As you may end up paying it, you might still want to encourage them to belt up!

• They can shoot an air rifle on private land where permission has been given. All of the pellets must remain within the boundary of this land, so the typical back garden is probably not an option.

At 15

• Watching a 15 certificate film in the cinema, on video or DVD becomes an option.

• If a 15-year­-old has a job their working hours increase: in Kent they can work up to eight hours on a Saturday, two hours on Sunday, two hours a day on a school day, and eight hours a day, except Sundays, in school holidays. The maximum number of working hours in a week is 12 in term time and 35 in school holidays. No working before 7am or after 7pm. At 15 years and nine months

• Hide your car keys! They can apply for a provisional driving licence.

At 16

• At sweet 16, your son or daughter gains a lot of control over their life. He or she can choose their own GP, and can sign a medical consent form.

• They can get a full­ time job, and must be paid at least £3.87 an hour. They can also now work in a factory, construction work, in transport, down a mine or on a registered merchant ship.

• They can claim Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support and other benefits in some

circumstances

• Leaving home is an option as long as it's with parental consent

• Getting married needs only one parent's consent. And for gay young people, the minimum legal age for a civil partnership or same­ sex marriage in England and Wales is also 16 but written consent may be needed for anyone under 18.

• They can buy their own pet (although there’s no law to say it’s not you who’ll end up looking after it).

• Drinking wine, beer or cider with a meal in a restaurant is allowed

• Sixteen-year-olds can take to the road by getting a licence to drive a moped

• It could be him or her – they can buy a National Lottery ticket

• The NSPCC recommends 16 as a minimum age for a babysitter

• Joining the Army, Navy or Air Force is an option (with parental consent), although recruits can't go on active service until they're 18. They’ll need to stay until the age of 22 if they join this young.

Teeangers aged 16 and over can have a moped
Teeangers aged 16 and over can have a moped

At 17

• Everyone knows you can get a driving licence, but there are more options at this age.

Entrepreneurs can start a career in street trading.

• Empty­nest syndrome could strike, as 17­-year-olds can leave home without their parents'

consent

• They can sign up with Vine, Tinder and Yik Yak

At 18

• As adults in the eyes of the law, a whole host of activities become legal, apart from the obvious – drinking alcohol, marrying and voting. For example, they can buy fireworks

• They can get ink. It isn’t legal to give someone under 18 a tattoo, although some parlours do

• If they've never liked the name you gave them, now they can change it

• They can act as an executor of a will

• Budding property tycoons can apply for a mortgage, and own houses and land

• Those who yearn for the spotlight can go abroad to sing, play or perform professionally

• They can be called for jury service

• Altruistic 18­-year­-olds can give blood

• The minimum age for becoming a local councillor is 18

• They can bet

• Debt may beckon, as teenagers can get a credit card or a loan at 18

• 18 is the minimum age for buying and smoking cigarettes

Flying lessons are open to all ages in the UK
Flying lessons are open to all ages in the UK

At any age

• Children can visit a doctor to discuss contraception or abortion

• To travel abroad, your child will need their own passport. If they're under 16, they'll get a five-year child passport – because their appearance is likely to change a lot. Once they're over 16, their next passport will be an adult 10-year one.

• Children can go into a bar with a person over 18 but they can't drink

• Body piercing can be done, although you may have to go with your child to give consent. Genital piercing on under­ 18s (and nipple piercing for girls) is considered to be assault.

• A child can make a complaint if they think they're being discriminated against because of race, colour, ethnic origin, sexuality... or can make an official complaint against the police.

• Kids can watch a U or PG film at a cinema, although it's at the manager's discretion

• Flying lessons are open to all ages although, until your child reaches 14, the flying hours won't be recorded, and so won't count towards that pilot's licence

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