In light of Safer Internet Day, we thought it would be worth encouraging and advising parents, guardians, teachers, tutors and carers to be aware of what social media is out there. Esther recently read an article by the Huddersfield Examiner which explains that new apps, similar to dating-style apps, as well as group-chat apps are being more frequently used by school children. This has been brought to attention by the particular Council’s School’s Safeguarding Adviser mentioned in the article who’s raising cause for concern that the children may not be aware of the dangers these apps can raise.

Kirklees College Employability Fair 2016

With 80% of internet users owning a smartphone, social media platforms have never been as easily accessible as they are now. Brand Watch reported that there are now over “3.17 billion internet users” with over “2.3 billion active social media users” worldwide! Can you even begin to visualise that amount of people? We sure can’t…

To put this into perspective; according to UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) “children make up an estimated one third of internet users worldwide”. That’s a LOT of children using the World Wide Web! Although there are guidelines set in place (for example age restrictions) it is easy for underage kids/teens/youth to sign up and use social media platforms by faking their real date of birth. Esther wanted to look at how this affects young people today and this is what she found out:

The UK Safer Internet Centre released a report called “The Power of Image – a report into the influence of images and videos in young people’s digital lives.” The report covers the realities of situations such as cyber-bullying, the role of image and exposure to nudity online, for children aged between 7-18 years old. Here are just a few of their findings from the 1,500 children they surveyed:

  • 70% said they used YouTube within the last day (27% within the last hour)
  • 58% had used WhatsApp before (39% had used WhatsApp in the last day)
  • 32% had used the image-based platform Instagram within the last day, compared to 24% who had used the instant photo messaging app Snapchat within the same period of time
  • 70% said they have seen images and videos not suitable for their age (1 in 6 said this happened most of the time)
  • 45% of 13-17 year old respondents said they have “seen nude or nearly nude photos of someone they know being shared around their school or local community”
  • 23% said they don’t know how to control who can see what they post on social media sites (Privacy Settings)

We’ve not blogged these figures to scare or shock but to raise awareness of the realities of unsupervised internet usage for young people and children. The UK Safer Internet Centre is just one of the many organisations giving advice to parents about how to keep children safe online as well as educate them as to how to address certain situations.

Internet Safety - Social Media Devices - Mobile Phones and Tablets

Like may things in life, social media and internet usage can be daunting and many people still have a negative opinions about various social media platforms. However, if used correctly and wisely, social media is an amazing tool which opens a variety of doors previously closed to both individuals and businesses.

Other figures from the same report by UK Safer Internet Centre stated that “half of 8-17 year olds said they always think about what personal information they could be sharing before they post a photo or video online…” and 77% said they were aware of how to use privacy settings and control who sees the content they post onto their social media accounts. This just shows that with a little guidance and encouragement, social media can be used safely and positively. If the next generation know how to embrace social media more than we do, we’re looking at an exciting time ahead.

“By the time my nephew was 6 years old he could easily use an iPad. He’s not even 10 years old now and he’s already connecting with his friends through his new Xbox games. His console is hooked-up to the internet but I know for a fact that his parents have made the effort to speak to him about internet safety and he’s clear about the do’s and don’t on the internet.” – Esther Orridge

Don’t get us wrong, we don’t believe social media is the be-all-and-end-all! And we’re not necessarily advocating that children should be on social media either (after all, the social media age restrictions are there for a reason). However social media develops so quickly now-a-days that in reality, who knows what the social media giants will look like in 10 years time?! The kids will be way ahead of us by the time they’re our age..!

Internet Safety - Keeping Kids Safe Online

If the younger generation, when at an appropriate age, can learn to use social media safely and wisely (and as part of a balanced lifestyle) they’re setting a great foundation for the future in an ever-developing digital world!

Do you think children should be allowed to use social media and do you think parents/teachers/carers do enough to educate the younger generation about internet security? Are Your Kids Safe Online?

If you want more information and advice about online safety for children visit www.saferinternet.org.uk

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