How young is too young to own a tablet? According to a report for the Department of Culture, one in four children under the age of two, and more than a third of three to five year-olds, now have one of their own. Ofcom figures show, meanwhile, that 39 per cent of eight to 11 year-olds have their own smartphone, and 94 per cent of them are online for an average of more than 13 hours per week.
These may be shocking figures to older readers, but the reality is that it is increasingly difficult to deny children access to digital devices. They are sources of entertainment and learning, used in schools and of course by parents themselves. But they can also be conduits of harm – with the greatest concern surrounding social media.
Most people agree that young children should not be using social media – even social media firms. The terms of service of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat say anyone under 13 would be violating their terms of service if they did so, while for WhatsApp the age limit is now 16. But we know this isn’t working. According to Ofcom, 23 per cent of eight to 11 year-olds use social media.