Children and social media has always been a talking point with online safety being one of the key areas of concern. With that in mind, I was shocked to learn that 13% of 8-9 year olds spend up to 4 HOURS a day on social media?
After Equifax conducted some research into how long children spend on social media, in partnership with Safer Internet Day, I was really concerned to learn this, especially as social media sites require you to be at least 13 years of age before having an account (supervised by parents/guardians). These are children that have grown up in world of social media and may feel it's 'normal' to be a part of it, but as a parent, i don't think an 8 year old would be aware or prepared for the darker side fo the internet.
Not surprisingly, those around the age of 16 spend the most amount of time on social media. 41% admitted that they regularly spend 4 hours or more on their social media profiles with 14 year olds following closely behind (a third)
In recent years, we've seen how some adults have masked them selves as children/ preteens/ teenagers on social media to groom and take advantage and I feel that even though we can warm them, the dangers are still there and they may not notice.
There is also the element of them knowing to respect other peoples privacy. 61% of all children think that it's okay to share pictures of their family and friends and even more worryingly, share when and where they are going on holiday, leaving it clear to criminals when their homes will be empty and vulnerable to theft.
It's clear that educating children on the importance of online safety is still vital! When I was at school, we didn't really get any online safety education until we were about 15 years old. Now a decade later, that's clearly too late and the subject needs to be tackled earlier on. I've ready recently that sex education is to be introduced earlier (in age appropriate ways) and maybe we should look at doing the same with online safety?
So what platforms are they using the most?
Facebook is still the most popular social media platform for those aged 16 (89%) while those aged 8-9 are favouring YouTube more which does have protocols in place to restrict content. For example without signing into an account, a lot of adult content won't be allowed to view. 20% of the respondents though said they liked using WhatsApp, a messaging service which allows you to send videos and images as well as text messages.
What can I do to help keep my child safe online?
Firstly, look into the social media platforms they mention and look at their age guidelines. I know that I wouldn't feel comfortable with Lily being on social media in primary school and I'd still be concerned at about 13/14 years old. If you do decide to let your child have an account, make sure you have access to it. This isn't to snoop, it's just to monitor and keep an eye over any stranger friend requests or messages they may appear.
Talking to your children about online dangers is also vital. Let them know that if they get any odd requests or feel worried about something, to tell you so you can double check for them. Being open about social media content with your child is always best, don't let it become a secret.
If they're using a desktop computer, make sure it's in an open room in the house where other members of the family will be, not hidden away in their room. That way, you can see what's going on.
Another things to do is see if the platforms your child is using has any parental lock features. I know that on Lily's tablet you can restrict somethings in the settings, this may be possible for social media.
If you want some more information on want to contact an expert, the the UK Safer Internet Centre has a great team and brilliant recourses. Head to their website now by clicking here!
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