The Children's Commissioner recently released a really interesting and eye-opening report about children's use of social media between the ages of 8 and 12, and a few things really stood out for me.
Children are starting to be familiar with social media and are using it from a very young age. Use is fairly sporadic when they are younger, but quickly becomes habitual as they get a bit older. Some of the children surveyed felt that they were conscious of needing to reply to messages straight away otherwise they would lose their snap streak, or their friend wouldn't be happy with them.
Family have a much bigger influence than perhaps they realise with a lot of children learning about social media from their siblings and parents, and often seeing inappropriate content on their parent's device when borrowing devices without the right safeguards. "Sharenting" or parents sharing images of their children on social media was something that the surveyed children didn't always feel comfortable with, but felt they couldn't do much about it.
Social media is a huge factor in shaping their identity as they want to make sure that they look good or that their posts will get likes. Some children surveyed were starting to see their offline life in a different way and were thinking about what they could share and what would get them the most likes.
Children have a pretty good grasp of some "rules" when it comes to internet safety and what to be careful of sharing that could give away too much personal information to a stranger, but they don't have as strong an awareness of how to equip themselves against emotional situations like cyber-bullying or online peer pressure.
There were positive messages too. Children recognise the positive uses of social media to be inspired, learn about the world, influence their mood positively, and keep in touch with distant friends or relatives, but still acknowledging the value or face-to-face interactions. The children surveyed were aware of some of the risks of the online world and would often avoid apps or sites they knew weren't appropriate for them. There's a lot to be encouraged by.
Ultimately, this report tackles an important issue being faced by many parents: how can my children learn to use the internet, and particularly social media, mindfully, responsibly and safely? The report provides recommendations around guidance for parents, which for me stresses the importance of initiatives like Internet Matters who are a charitable organisation set up to help parents educate their children on safe internet use.
At TalkTalk, we recognise how important it is for families to have these conversations, and so we include two features in all our broadband and fibre packages that are designed as tools to facilitate these discussions:
HomeSafe allows parents to set website filters on their home network, so that children aren’t vulnerable to seeing inappropriate content before they are ready.
SuperSafe enables parents to set these controls for individual devices, using SuperSafe’s newly enhanced Family Rules options, meaning that children’s devices are protected anywhere they might be, including outside of the home network. Protection for one device is included in TalkTalk packages, but customers can also get the SuperSafe Boost at just £2 a month to cover up to 8 devices.