How is Social Media Hazardous for Young Children?
Social media platforms have greatly increased in popularity among users due to growing Internet usage. Currently, social media is accessible to almost everyone. Everyone is captivated by the idea of connecting to others effortlessly, from older generations to young children. Despite the majority of social media platforms requiring their users to be above 13, there are millions of children under this age who are using social media platforms on daily basis.
ExpressVPN surveyed over 2000 children and their guardians to understand how they use social media and to what extent. How does social media usage impact their lives?
According to the survey, young children’s average screen time spans from 21 to 45 minutes per day. Social media websites are often accessed by kids as young as four. This unequivocally demonstrates how important social media has grown for daily tasks. So how do young users fare in the wake of this growing use of social media? Many questions have been raised concerning the safety of young social media users. Well, to know more about this, continue reading.
Biggest threats children face online
Parenting is stressful, but in the social media age, parents are experiencing a new type of helplessness. The majority of parents are aware of the risks associated with social media use, including cyberbullying, privacy invasion, melancholy brought on by comparison to others, and—most concerningly—online predators who prey on young children.
When asked what they believed to be the largest internet threats, 59% of parents responded that bullying their children was their top concern. Next came worries about their child being groomed by an online predator, worry that their child would encounter offensive content online, and worry about the possibility of cyberstalking or other forms of user harassment.
When children were asked about the biggest threats they experience online, 34% said that it is facing some being rude or swearing at them. Scary videos (31%) and scary images (26%) are also among the biggest threats to children.
Social media is not a safe place for young children as 17% of children surveyed have had a stranger ask which school they go to, and 14% say that they’ve been asked for their home address.
Here are some social media platforms where children experience negative environments most frequently:
In the U.S.
- YouTube (43%)
- Facebook (35%)
- TikTok (28%)
- Roblox (27%)
- Instagram (26%)
In the UK
- Roblox (34%)
- YouTube (34%)
- TikTok (25%)
- Fortnite (21%)
- Facebook (16%)
As young as 4-year-olds are spending 20+ minutes per day on social media
These revelations are disturbing. About half of the children admitted to accessing social media, even though only about a quarter of the parents, 29% in the U.S. and 21% in the UK, said they permit their 4- to 13-year-old children to have an account.
Social media use among children is significantly higher in the US (63%) than in the UK (53%). Also, these children use social media platforms for a daily average of 28 minutes.
Unsurprisingly, kids spend more time on social media as they become older. While the average daily time spent on social media by 13-year-old American and British youngsters isn’t particularly shocking, 4-year-olds who use social media nevertheless log in an average of 21 minutes daily.
Now that it is known that a large chunk of children has access to social media the big question is, are parents aware of what their kids are doing online? 54% of the parents said that they observe their children’s online activity daily or more than once a day.
Regarding monitoring methods, parents use most common things like checking their phones, limiting access, watching their children while online, or using parental control software or apps.
Kids lie about their ages, gender, and location
Since most social media platforms don’t allow children under 13 years, 24% of children admitted to lying about their age on social media. Around 16% lie about their location or address. Only 9% of children said that they lie about their gender. One of the prime reasons we suspect they lie is they feel the need to protect themselves online, likely from strangers.
Parents, schools, and peers taught their children how to stay safe online
When asked, 76% of parents agreed that it is their responsibility to teach young children how to avoid social media and how to stay safe online. About 84% of the children who responded to the survey agreed, saying that their parents and other adults have taught them about online safety.
A majority of kids, 57% in the UK and 40% in the U.S., report that they’ve learned about it from school. In comparison, 17% say friends have taught them, despite the fact that only a small percentage of parents believe that schools (8%) and social media companies (5%) should bear the primary responsibility for doing so.
How To Protect Children Online?
Social media does really provide a number of risks, many of which young children are unaware of. So, it is the parent’s responsibility to shield their children from online dangers. While children are using the internet and social media, adults must ensure safety precautions are taken.
Blocking access to improper and obscene websites on their devices is the first step in ensuring social media security. Users can also access age restrictions and other filters on social media networks. You can entirely block objectionable and age-restricted content using these filters. Most major search engines and websites also have kid-friendly versions for children to access the internet safely.
However, in order to keep an eye on their children’s social media usage, parents can also set up parental controls on their children’s gadgets. Putting in a good firewall can also assist parents in protecting their kids from viruses and hacking threats.
Despite these safety precautions, educating kids about social media’s risks is the greatest way to protect them from these dangers. Your child will be more cautious if you inform them of the numerous risks they may encounter online. Helping your children feel at ease enough to share anything with you should be a priority. Getting your child to trust you and discuss anything inappropriate they come across online. Whether or not they’re being cyberbullied depends on encouraging honesty. Also, teaching your child about “stranger danger” in the real world and online is crucial.
The aforementioned survey conducted to provide a clear report on the average internet threats that kids may encounter and how parents and teachers may work to protect them. Hence, the question of whether social media is useful or detrimental cannot be answered with certainty. Depending on how you use social media, its benefits, and drawbacks exist. Yet, its simpler to lower the danger of internet risks for young children if suitable safety steps taken. Online, adults need to work to make it a safe place for kids. This will guarantee that younger generations will only encounter positive things from social media.