There’s no denying that social media has some positives; it has reunited long-lost family members, allowed important charities to get the attention and support they need, and it’s used to share important global messages and news. However, there has also been debate in recent times as to the role that social media plays with children. Unfortunately, one search online will show stories of bullying, fake profiles, and even kids spending lots of money on games unknowingly or unwittingly.
This begs the question of when kids should be allowed to start using social media. Especially when parents constantly hear about their friends being online, it’s a balance between keeping them safe and not holding them back from forging friendships with others
Influence Central Report
Back in 2018, Influence Central released a report which showed the following:
- Half of all children use at least one social media website by the age of 12
- The average age for a first social media account is 11.4
- The average age for a first smartphone is 10.3
Thanks to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, the minimum age requirements for platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook are currently at 13. Unfortunately, the fact that the average age for a first account is 11.4 means that children are accustomed to and perhaps even pressured into lying about their age.
What can the platforms do about this? Not much except make the age limit clearly written in the Terms of Service and hope that parents are keeping a careful eye on their children’s internet usage.
Problems with Introducing Social Media Too Early
Aside from the obvious – adults posing as young children seeking friends, children spending money accidentally on games or other websites, and bullying – another problem actually relates to the mental development of young children. Between the ages of six and 12 years, children aren’t yet able to assess the validity of statements or analyze the truth. Suddenly, they’re bombarded with heavy global issues and their opinions are molded by what they see online. By the time they can think more abstractly, their opinions and beliefs have already been shaped.
For parents, experts recommend sitting down and having a proper discussion before allowing them onto social media. Especially for those unfamiliar with the platform of their choosing, look through the privacy settings and ensure that they’ll be as safe as can be when online.
From here, discussions can include what is and isn’t appropriate to post and comment. Just as we do in the real world, children need to be educated about talking to strangers. If you’ve recently found that your child has created a social media platform without your knowledge and they’re under 13, there’s an option to report the account and have it deleted.
Having Conversations Keep Children Safe
In an ideal world, it would be wholly illegal for those under 13 to create a social media account. At the moment, parents simply agree that the company can track the data linked to the account and everything carries on as normal. Since this isn’t an ideal world, parents are advised to follow the advice below:
- Have conversations and ensure the child understands what they should and shouldn’t do on social media
- Be an active part of their social media time
- Track their time online and only allow them an account if you know the password
- Prevent your child from taking their phone or tablet to bed
- Create a family social media usage plan/schedule
Unfortunately, one of the biggest dangers of social media is the time children seem to invest on the platforms. Hopefully, with this advice, children stay safe and are able to maintain a normal childhood while enjoying the positive sides of social media!