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Children at ‘significant’ social media risk

Children aren't getting enough guidance to cope with the emotional demands that social media puts on them, according to new report.

It’s the most beautiful, satisfying, relaxing thing I’ve ever seen, and it proves that children are geniuses, because they’re smart enough to make it and smart enough to watch online slime videos.
Says 11-year-old Alina:

If you’re like really stressed or something and you watch a really satisfying slime video it makes you like calmer.

So that’s one of many plus sides of how kids – the under-13 crowd – are using social media. They say it takes their minds off things, too: “If you’re in a bad mood at home you go on social media and you laugh and then you feel better,” says 10-year-old Kam.
But according to a Children’s Commissioner report that looked at social media use among 8- to 12-year-olds, children aren’t getting enough guidance to cope with the emotional demands that social media puts on them.
For instance, many children interviewed for the report were over-dependent on “likes” and comments for social validation, according to researchers. They spoke to 32 children in eight focus groups, each including two friendship pairs, grouped by age and gender. The report says that the friendship pairing was done to enable the children to “open up with more confidence during the research, and to allow for insight around peer dynamics and other social factors to emerge more naturally.”
These are some of the things the kids said about getting social validation from social media:

If I got 150 likes, I’d be like, ‘that’s pretty cool, it means they like you’.

I just edit my photos to make sure I look nice.

My mum takes pictures of me on Snapchat… I don’t like it when your friends and family take a picture of you when you don’t want them to.

I saw a pretty girl and everything she has I want, my aim is to be like her.

Speaking to the BBC, Children’s commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, called on schools and parents to prep children emotionally for what she called the “significant risks” of social media as they move schools and meet new classmates, many of whom have their own phones.
As it is, pretty much everything kids are doing on social media has pluses and negatives. Take, for example, when kids follow their family members. The report cited these positives given by the children they interviewed:

  • I learn what to do and what not to do on social media from my older siblings
  • I can see what my family are doing on my parent’s social media

…and these negatives:

  • I see things that weren’t meant for me to see
  • I don’t understand why my parents need to take pictures of me
  • I worry about how my siblings use social media
  • I don’t feel I have any control over photos when my parents post them/I can’t ask my parents to take them down

The stress starts with older kids, Ms. Longfield told the BBC:

It’s really when they hit secondary school that all of these things come together.
They find themselves chasing likes, chasing validation, being very anxious about their appearance online and offline and feeling that they can’t disconnect – because that will be seen as socially damaging.

She suggested compulsory digital literacy and online resilience lessons for year six and seven pupils (10 – 12 year olds), to teach them about the “emotional side of social media”. She also suggests that parents should help kids to “navigate the emotional rollercoaster” of the negative aspects of social media.
The BBC also spoke with Matthew Reed, chief executive of the Children’s Society, who urged parents to have “open conversations” with their kids about the sites and apps they use:

This can include looking through their ‘friends’ lists together and finding out how their child knows different people.
Check their privacy settings and get children to think about what information and photos they are comfortable with others having access to.

On the plus side, the report found that staying safe online was a priority for the younger children – age 8 to 11 – the researchers interviewed.

Most of the children had strict rules about what they can and cannot share online, which seemed to be a strong reflection of the safety messages they receive from their parents and schools. In this context, ‘safety’ was understood as protecting oneself from strangers, online predators, cyber-bullying and ‘bad’ things people share, such as swearing or violence.
Of central importance was the need to ensure they do not reveal any personal identifiable information, such as where they live or where they go to school, through the images or content they share. Many talked about specific strategies they use to protect themselves, such as never revealing their school uniform or never showing their house number in photos. Some also said they are always careful to make sure the background in their photos doesn’t easily give away what their home looks like.


For many parents, it is too late to take the iPhones and iPhones away until they are 15+. In our house we use DnsLearning. It is a free site. It helps force my children to disconnect from youtube and social media and motivates them to take a few seconds to actually use the internet to get smarter.
Using it, every 30 mins, my children can no longer access youtube and social media sites. In order to restore access to those sites they have to go to an education site, earn points, and wait 20 seconds. After 20 seconds, the server will detect points are earned and restore access to youtube and social media. Of course you can adjust the 30 min time to be longer.
My daughter prefers to earn points on khan academy. She can earn 100 points in 2 or 3 minutes which means she is cut off from her youtube kids videos for only a few minutes. study city also works with DuoLingo, Prodigy Math, CodeCombat, Mathopolis, ReadTheory, XtraMath and others.


I think there is a big cultural problem around the acceptance of social media sites especially in the way that some people seem to integrate into those sites to such an extent that they’re almost plugged in 24/7. Remember that a lot of sites have rules stating that young people under the age of 14 are prohibited from having accounts. Whether we like it or not parents and guardians do have to enforce that. Website admins have some responsibility to police compliance but it’s still down to parents/guardians to enforce that.
OK enforcing this does add the issue of peer group exclusion and derision but that’s why it’s important for adults to appropriately manage this. And lets also be honest. Why does a 10/11 year old need an iPhone?


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