Media & Press Media - Text

[MEDIA] The social mediasphere is no place for small children. We must do more to keep them off with @Telegraph

Not exactly the headline I would have chosen, and the article’s was sub-edited to fit another breaking story (my final edits didn’t’ fit in the space, unfortunately. The article starts:

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.

You can read the full article on The Telegraph site, or PDF of print version.


#DigitalParenting: ‘Life in Likes’ Report by @ChildrensComm

This morning I was contacted by Premier Radio, who were looking to run a segment on the new report published by the Children’s Commissioner, ‘Life in ‘Likes’: Report into Social Media Use among 8-12 year olds:

This Children’s Commissioner’s report on the effects of social media on 8-to-12-year-olds examines the way children use social media and its effects on their wellbeing. ‘Life in Likes’ fills a gap in research showing how younger children use platforms which social media companies say are not designed for them. Whilst most social media sites have an official age limit of 13 years, some research has suggested ¾ of 10-to-12 year olds have a social media account.

While 8-10s use social media in a playful, creative way – often to play games – this changes significantly as children’s social circles expand as they grow older. This report shows that many Year 7 children are finding social media hard to manage and becoming over-dependent on ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ for social validation. They are also adapting their offline behaviour to fit an online image, and becoming increasingly anxious about ‘keeping up appearances’ as they get older.

You can read the report yourself:

The story didn’t run, but led to an interesting discussion on my Facebook (visible only to Friends), in which I said that this story says more to me about the social pressures and expectations for which we use tech, than the tech itself. There is a lot of responsibility on the companies to look at what they build into the technology, and all of us need to look at how we can help ourselves, and more vulnerable users (including children). Agree good for this to be essential in school training as to how to respond, as it’s an integral part of life, but there’s a limit to how much schools can do, so of course parents, godparents, grandparents, etc. all have a part to play too – as I outline in Raising Children in a Digital Age. As always, I am wondering how different this is to the pressures from magazines etc.

There’s so much that’s important about communication with children, and remembering that according to the terms and conditions of pretty much every social media site, 13 is the age in which it is permitted that they join … the narrative, however, is that they’re all on it anyway, therefore pressuring others to be on there. Anne Longfield has previously said that this simply allows social media companies to hide behind this as it’s clear so many younger users are on it – a challenging one – and definitely something that needs to be considered. How many other factors are at play, rather than the tech, e.g. families not spending as much time together, not feeling can say no to children, the fact that people don’t feel safe sending their children outside, etc…

The story was covered in different ways as always:

  • ITV News: ‘Schools urged to teach pre-teens social media ‘resilience lessons”
  • Huffington Post: ‘Call For Social Media Resilience Lessons To Help Kids Prepare For ‘Cliff Edge”
  • Sky News: ‘Children ‘ill-equipped’ for social media demands’
    • Parent Comment: ‘My golden rules for my three kids’ social media usage’
  • The Telegraph: ‘Social media firms must take more responsibility as children grow up ‘chasing likes’, commissioner warns’
  • Guardian: ‘Secondary school pupils ‘ill-equipped to cope’ with stress of social media’
    • Response: ‘Children must learn to handle social media pressures’
  • Daily Mail: ‘Children `ill-equipped for avalanche of pressure´ on social media’
  • Channel 4: ‘Children “ill-equipped” to use social media’

and don’t forget that lots of good things are happening online.