4th Mar 2019
There are few reliable statistics available to show the usage of social media by under 13s, but one study suggests 46% of 11-year-olds, 51% of 12-year-olds and 28% of 10-year-olds now have a social media profile1.Research2 into the top used platforms shows a disparity between age groups. We see that users aged 16-22 (the lowest age range captured in this study) are big users of YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat. Users aged 35-49 (the most likely age group to be considered as guardians) are comparatively low users of these platforms.
Young people are using platforms that their guardians know little or nothing about. Without this knowledge we have scant idea of the content our young people are being exposed to. Once on these platforms, with their falsified age, they will only experience more pressure to consume content considered inappropriate for their age.
Social media exposes young people to being judged and, in some cases, literally voted for. They are taught that by posting more visually appealing photos, videos of more dangerous stunts etc. they will get more “likes”. The serotonin response to these “likes” is cementing into very impressionable minds what is required of them to find social acceptance.
There are few controls over the validity of content that can be found on social media. Anyone can create a YouTube video on potentially hazardous topics, comments can include racial hatred, fake science and damaging ideas. This content may well be going unchallenged by younger users without them fully understanding how or the need to validate it.
Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter all have a minimum age requirement of 13. This comes from the US Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) passed in 1998. All these platforms also have systems in place to report suspected underage users and a few even have automated systems which detect potential underage users.
All the major social media platforms have systems in place to report accounts which are suspected of being owned by someone underage. Reporting may seem like being a kill joy but when we consider the negative effects social media can pose, it is everyone’s responsibility to stand up and speak out. To truly make a difference in understanding the content our young people are being exposed to it is essential that guardians at all levels take responsibility for understanding the communication channels used by them. We cannot rely solely of social media platforms to police and protect children.
(Written By Phil Nicholls)