I’m not allowed to do something

  • Your rights protect you from anything that harms your health and development
  • There are age restrictions on some activities which are designed to protect you from harm
  • Although there can be age restrictions on some things that you can do, you shouldn’t be treated unfairly otherwise

Until you are 18, your rights are there to make sure you can grow and develop healthily. You shouldn’t come into contact with anything that would harm your development. This can include things that you see, hear and do as well as stuff that you can buy to use. Although the specific reasons why you can’t do something until a certain age will depend on what the activity or service is, age restrictions are in place to protect you from harm, and in some cases to protect other people too.

Not all age restrictions will be there because there is a law that puts it there, but there may be other reasons why you can’t do something until you are old enough. Businesses and organisations can limit the services they offer to children based on age, but generally, they cannot treat you unfairly for any other reason.

As well as the sale of some products being restricted, so that you can only buy certain things once you’re a certain age, some activities and services are also age restricted. These could include things like theme park rides, or having a social media account. It will depend on what you want to do or which service you want to use, but usually the restrictions are in place to protect you from harm. In some cases, activities may also be age restricted to protect other people too.

Yes. Normally, people who provide services have to allow everyone access to their services equally, but they are allowed to treat people differently according to age. Some activities might not be harmful to you ‘physically’ – so you won’t be physically hurt if you are below the age limit – but it might have an impact on you emotionally or mentally. An example of this might be watching a film meant for adults.

There might be safety reasons that mean you can’t do something because of your height or your weight. You might have to be at least a certain height or weight to do something to keep you safe. There are some activities that might be designed for younger children that you won’t be able to do if you are too tall or too heavy.

You shouldn’t be stopped from doing something because you wear glasses, but occasionally you may find an activity that you can’t do if you are wearing glasses. Depending on the reason why you wear glasses, this could be discrimination on grounds of disability. If there is a good safety reason why you can’t wear your glasses while you are doing the activity, the organisation may be able to do this. You may find other restrictions that limit access to a service if you use a wheelchair or some other equipment to help you day to day. You can find out more about being treated unfairly when you want to access a service here.

Adventurous activities You may have to be a particular age to do certain adventurous activities like abseiling or sailing. It will depend on whether you are going with an organisation or if you are going as a private group with someone you know and who isn’t being paid for the trip. An organisation that is taking children to do adventurous activities will have to think carefully about what the activities are and whether it would be safe for children of a certain age to do the activity.

Some organisations may not be able to get insurance to cover them for certain activities, and could be breaking the law if they allow someone to do an activity when it isn’t safe for them.

Fairground rides Some fairground rides have height, and in some cases weight, restrictions on them. These will be to keep you safe. Height restrictions are usually in place so that you aren’t hurt during the ride. Often, the harnesses that are designed to keep you safe are only appropriate for people once they are a certain height, or under a certain weight. Some rides, designed for younger children, won’t be safe or appropriate if you are taller.

Films and computer games Films and computer games are classified according to age by law to make sure they are only watched or played by people who are old enough to understand them properly and not be upset or influenced by what they are seeing.

Social media There’s no law which says how old you have to be to have a social media account, or an email address, but different social media platforms and email providers may have a minimum age for an account.

To find out about other services, and products which are age restricted in law, go to our ‘When Can I…? section

The Local Authority is usually responsible for making sure that age restrictions that are in place because of a law are respected. The Health and Safety Executive is responsible for making sure that adventurous activities are carried out safely, even if there is no set age limit for the activity. These organisations are interested in making sure that the people or businesses that provide services don’t let anyone who is too young carry out the activity.

If there is no law, but an organisation has an age limit, or another restriction, for a good reason, that organisation will have its own way of dealing with it.

Your parents have the responsibility for looking after you and making sure you are protected from harm. If you shouldn’t do something until you are a certain age, your parents or the people with parental responsibility for you, should respect that.

If someone finds out you aren’t old enough, they probably won’t let you carry on. If you’re already doing the activity, they might stop and ask you to leave – but they will have to make sure that you will be safe.

If there is a danger involved in any activity, the person or organisation providing the service has to be very clear about what the rules are and the risks involved. If you are allowed to do something when it wasn’t clear that it would not be appropriate for someone of your age, the organisation could be breaking the law, and might be prosecuted. Even if it is not prosecuted for breaking the law, it might have been negligent if you are hurt.

Most of the time, the responsibility is on the person or organisation providing the service to make sure the service is only used by people who are old enough. It is their responsibility to make sure people using their service are kept safe. If your parents or the people looking after you knew you weren’t old enough, and put you at risk, may be by saying you were old enough to do something when you weren’t, it is possible that they might be investigated. This would probably only happen if you were hurt as a result.