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Social Media and Children: How Young is Too Young?

Image courtesy of dubaipsychiatrist.com

Social Media has exploded in the last decade and its influence on adolescents is a topic of constant debate. Yet the ultimate question remains: how young is too young to be using social networks? Social Media can be addictive because of its user’s curiosity about the contacts, recent events, and the general need to constantly know what their peers are up to. Children and especially adolescents have a false perception of control over their behavior that can be deceptive. When youth engage in electronic activity, it can become hard for them to stop and focus on educational and other productive work.

Daily Mail Reporter posted an article with research, and the results were disturbing:

  • 21% of children had posted negative comments starting from an average age of 11, and 26% had “hijacked” another person’s account and posted without permission.
  • 43% had messaged strangers, starting from an average age of 12.
  • 59% of children are using social networking sites by 10 years old, yet only 32% of parents feel “very confident” about helping them stay safe online.

The study also suggests that children appear to be posting images or videos of themselves online or creating false profiles for the first time by age 11.

According to the Social Age report for online safety advisory website Knowthenet, 52% of kids ranging from eight to 16 years old admitted to ignoring the official age limit for Facebook. The current age requirement is 13 years old, however Facebook was originally available to college students only.

Child psychologist and Knowthenet spokesman Dr. Richard Woolfson states, “As social media has removed the barriers between a young person’s public and private self, children can become vulnerable, and compulsive online sharing can lead to danger. As this study shows, children are gaining access to social media sites at a younger age, which could expose them to content, people or situations that are out of their depth and which they’re not emotionally prepared for”.

On Monday December 12, Facebook launched an app called “Messenger Kids”, targeted at the age group of 13 and under. The app asks parents to give their approval for children to message, add filters, video chat and doodle on pictures to send to one another. The launch resurfaced an energetic debate about what age is “appropriate” for children to use certain mobile apps and how parents should handle the steady creep of technology into family life, especially as some struggle to limit the amount of time their children devote to screens.

In an article by the New York Times, Matt Quirion, father of three children between the ages of 3 and 9 says, “I’m an avid social media user, but I don’t feel my kids need more social interaction. They need their personal time to process all the social interaction and learn to grow into mature people”.

Put down the phone, play outside and remember that Student Accident can cover those playground boo boos.

About the Author:Catherine Wardach