As social media becomes more popular within different generations children are beginning their social media journey at younger and younger ages. This can pose many risks including access to inappropriate media.
Nowadays many parents are creating Facebook accounts for their newly born children, which seems practical as this is an easy way to keep and organise photos of your children and create a ‘sentimental’ timeline while also keeping online friends and family up-to-date. However, aside from many privacy issues, this can become a problem when it comes time to pass this account onto the child. While Facebook’s policy states that you have to be 13 in order to have a Facebook account this rule is often ignored. I, as well as many other people, know of someone who became active on Facebook before they turned 13, and for some this can pose a risk.
According to the 2013 ‘Risks and safety for Australian children on the internet’ study, based on the results by the AU Kids Online survey, 65% of Australian children who use the internet have their own social networking account. The survey also found that 29% of 9-10 year olds have a social networking account while 59% of 11-12 year olds had their own account.
Within the report, ‘In their own Words: What Bothers Children Online’, children were asked about their online experiences and below are some examples of social media and inappropriate internet content;
“Pictures that appear on the side of Facebook that exhibit naked females. Conversations that regularly open up on Facebook or MSN. There should be specific sites for these people and not opened to everybody.” (Girl, 12, France)
“YouTube. The things that come up straight away as soon as you search for the website. Facebook shows scary things even if you click on something that does not look or sound scary.” (Girl, 9, UK)
While Facebook and other social media sites do try to monitor and control what is posted online it is impossible to control everything and sometimes inappropriate content can stay up for days before it is seen and taken down by moderators.
Overall social media can pose problems when used by children, as it is almost impossible to control what is seen, no matter what the age of the child. In all, it falls on the responsibly of the parents to decide when is the appropriate time for their children to join the social media world.
Sonia Livingstone, Lucyna Kirwil, Cristina Ponte and Elisabeth Staksrud, with the EU Kids Online Network. In their own Words: What Bothers Children Online? Report, Feb. 2013.
(accessed 26 May 2014)
Lelia Green et al. Risks and Safety for Australian Children on the Internet: Full Findings from the AU Kids Online Survey of 9-16 Year Olds and their Parents. Cultural Science, 4.1 (2011): 1-7.