Did you know that 80% of internet users own a smartphone? We have information available at our fingertips and faster than ever before! A study by the UK Council for Child Internet Safety found that “children predominantly access the internet at home and through mobile devices”.

Internet Safety - Tablets and Mobile Devices

With this week marking Internet Safety Day, we thought we’d look at the UK age restrictions associated with popular social media platforms:

Facebook: 13 years old

Twitter: 13 years old

LinkedIn: 13 years old

GooglePlus: 13 years old

Instagram: 13 years old

Pinterest: 13 years old

Snapchat: 13 years old

WhatsApp: 13 years old

YouTube: 18 years old (or 13 years old with parental permission)

Now, Esther has looked at these age limits before and found that although they sound good in theory, there are a couple of grey areas:

  • It’s been reported that many children fake their date of birth in order to create an account whilst underage – there is evidence that children often ask parents to set up an account before they are old enough!
  • The age restrictions apply only to individuals when they want to create an account but doesn’t necessarily cover the usage of the platform as a general viewer – for example, many social media platforms allow external viewers to see public profiles and activity of account holders (unless the user changes their privacy settings)
  • For example: you don’t have to be signed in to Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn to see someone’s Public Profile (limited version of their profile) unless the user has specifically chosen to make it a private account.

Personal opinions aside, whether you’re pro-social media for kids or anti-social media for kids, one thing is certain. The digital world is moving quickly and developing all the time. Children (and adults) are exposed to more digital media than ever before and it’s easy to a) get addicted, b) involuntarily see something inappropriate or c) connect with people you don’t know.

Internet Safety - Children and Teens on Social Media

Now, before we get really negative (we don’t want any tears!) we know that the positives of social media exceed way past the negatives! When trained how to use it appropriately and in a balanced way, it becomes a whole new way of staying connected with the digital network you build.

Many people (old and young) use their social media accounts differently. Some people connect with anyone and everyone, whether they know them or not – which is weird when we’re taught as children “not to talk to strangers!” However, if you’re like Janet and Esther, you only connect with the people you know or have at least met. Here’s a couple of examples:

Janet Bebb: “I receive at least a couple of LinkedIn requests per day and I qualify each and every one of them. It’s interesting to see just how many requests are either to extend their personal network (basically to see all my contacts), are fake accounts (I’ve received requests to connect from Des O’Connor and Prince Harry) or because they genuinely want to keep in touch or meet up for mutual reasons.”

Esther Orridge: “When I first started at Social Progress I was determined not to mix work and personal connections on Facebook. But once I got to know some people in the business world, they became more than ‘just contacts’ and we mutually decided to be friends on Facebook to keep in touch easier. You have to be careful who you connect with and who you share your online activities with. Too many people let their guard down [like when they’re on holiday] and forget that social media is within a public domain!”

As we’ve said before, social media platforms are fantastic tools that keep us connected with each other and can help businesses especially, to extend their reach to an audience which they wouldn’t normally be able to capture in person.

It’s important to remember to ensure that when using the internet (not just social media) that both children and adults are careful and know how to use it safely.

Internet Safety - Privacy and security settings

Simple things such as knowing how to manage your privacy settings, parental controls and educating people about using the internet safely are just some of the topics which the UK Council for Child Internet Safety try to  address and advise parents, guardians, carers, teachers and tutors about.

Social media is a powerful way of staying connected and also an effective way of connecting with others. We just need to make sure we’re savvy about internet safety and aware of what we can often forget; that the information we are posting is, in some form or another, public!

Are your children on social media? Do they know how to manage their privacy settings? Have they been taught how to use the internet and social media safety?

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

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Are you on social media? Do get connected and say hello to us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest & Instagram. We’d love to hear from you! #SoProHigh5!