Survey Reveals the Threat of Social Media to Children

Social Media Threats to ChildrenA recent survey from ExpressVPN illustrates the risks young children face on social media. The company interviewed over 2,000 children and their parents in the US and the UK about their social media usage and their feelings about it. Let’s take a look at the survey and find out how and where children are spending their time.

The survey, published earlier this year, talked to over 2,000 children aged four to 13 who have access to the internet. Researchers found, on average, these children spend a lot of time online each day:

  • Age 4: 21 minutes
  • Age 5: 16 minutes
  • Age 6: 19 minutes
  • Age 7: 23 minutes
  • Age 8: 24 minutes
  • Age 9: 23 minutes
  • Age 10: 32 minutes
  • Age 11: 32 minutes
  • Age 12: 37 minutes
  • Age 13: 45 minutes

As you can see, the older children get, the more time they spend online. But where are they spending it? Per ExpressVPN:

As for the online activities that parents are comfortable with, 87% say that they allow their children to watch videos on sites such as YouTube and Netflix. Over 80% also allow their kids online to play games, while 28% say they have no problem giving their children access to the internet so that they can read articles.

With only a small percentage of parents allowing their children to have social media accounts, one can only assume that many of the kids who use social media are doing so without their parent’s knowledge or supervision—accessing the platforms when they’ve been allowed to use the internet for other purposes.

Where are children spending time online?

In the US, the platforms where children experience negative interactions include:

  • YouTube (43%)
  • Facebook (35%)
  • TikTok (28%)
  • Roblox (27%)
  • Instagram (26%)

What threats do children face online?

Interestingly, the survey also found that parents’ fears about their children being online do not match up exactly with what kids fear online:

What parents believe are threats

  • Bullying: 59%
  • Grooming: 45%
  • Offensive images/videos: 43%
  • Cyberstalking/harassment: 38%
  • People asking for personal information: 32%
What children actually face online

  • Somebody being rude or swearing: 34%
  • Seeing scary videos: 31%
  • Seeing scary photos: 26%
  • Bullying: 22%
  • Somebody asking you to buy something: 21%

“Confirming parents’ fears, 22% of children admit to being bullied online. Disturbingly, 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.”

Children also lie on social media

Social networking sites are not supposed to let children under 13 years old have accounts. However, 24% of children admitted to lying about their age on social media. Further, “About one in six kids said they had lied about their address or location on social networking sites, what they were doing when asked, and their appearance.”

This may signal that some children are attempting to protect themselves from strangers online. However, it could also mean that some children are lying in an attempt to conform to unrealistic social pressures, which can ultimately lead to physical and mental health issues.

Who is keeping our children safe online?

Seventy-six percent of parents agree that it’s their job to teach their children to stay away from social media, and the kids backed this up, with 84% of children saying parents and guardians have taught them about social media safety.

And, even though only 8% of parents believe it is the school’s responsibility to keep children safe, about 40% of US children report that they learned about social media safety from school, and 17% reported their friends had taught them.

How can I help keep my child safe on social media?

Most children’s exposure to social media is inevitable, so ExpressVPN also offers a variety of ways to help keep your child safe. Take these tips into consideration with your child:

  • Set up parental controls. The publication notes, “Setting up parental controls for the different devices and applications in your home can help limit the amount of screen time your child has, as well as control what they’re exposed to when browsing online.” Parental controls allow you to arrange content filters, set a time limit for online browsing, and manage the content to which every household member has access.
  • Maintain open communication with your kids. Parents should make a point of fostering open and honest communication with their children. Work to ensure they are comfortable letting you know if they are being cyberbullied or if anyone is being inappropriate with them online. If it is difficult for your child to open up to you, let them know they can write things down for you to read in private, or talk to them about the Child Help Hotline.
  • Remind children about “stranger danger” online. ExpressVPN notes, “Let them know that they should be skeptical of anyone they speak to online—and that if they don’t know them, they shouldn’t friend them.” You should also explain that people can make fake profiles online, pretending to be a teen when they’re actually an adult.
  • Make safe user names. Encourage your child to be creative with their username online, and not give away any important information. For example, if your child’s name is Jane Doe and their birthday is in 2013, ensure they stay away from names like “JaneDoe13” or other names that can give away identifying information. Using a real name makes it easier for online predators or bullies to track them.

With NPR recently reporting on how social media can fuel gun violence among teens, today it is even more important for you and your child to understand proper social media behavior and access. Further, the American Psychological Association notes that “children may not have the ability to restrain themselves from using social media too much. Recent research shows over 50% of teens reporting at least one symptom of clinical dependency on social media.”

Here at Martin & Helms, PC, we protect children and families, as well as those who have suffered personal injuries throughout Alabama. If you or a loved one need help with an online situation, we want to help. Reach out to us today to schedule a free consultation – simply call our offices or fill out our contact form. We serve Huntsville, Decatur, Madison, Athens, and all of North Alabama.