Many young children are using social media, and their activity is often going unmonitored by parents, a new poll finds.
Researchers from the University of Michigan surveyed parents of kids aged seven to 12 to ask about their children’s social media usage, and how involved they are in monitoring the activity.
They found that one-third of youngsters aged seven to nine and just under half of kids aged 10 to 12 had used social media in the past 12 months.
While five out of six parents reported using at least one parental control, 40 percent of parents say that regular monitoring their child’s social use is too time consuming.
A majority of parents also expressed concerns over children sharing private information, encountering sexual predators, seeing adult images or videos or being unable to discern false information.
The rise of smart devices has also allowed children easy access to social media apps like Instagram and TikTok, in turn giving parents more to worry about with their child’s online usage (file image)
Around one-third of children aged seven to nine use social media, with just under half of children 10 to 12 using the apps. Under a quarter of kids of that age do not use any apps at all, according to a survey
With devices such as tablets and smart phones becoming commonplace in American households, children currently have easier access to social media and the internet than ever before.
Apps, including TikTok and Instagram in particular, have become popular among children in younger age groups.
The Internet has all kinds of content easily accessible, much of which is inappropriate for young children.
Researchers from Michigan conducted a national survey of parents, to find how parents are navigating the trials and tribulations of raising a child in a social-media obsessed world.
‘There continues to be debate over how soon is too soon when it comes to using social apps and how parents should oversee it,’ said Sarah Clark, Mott Poll co-director of the poll, in statement.
‘Our poll looks at how often tweens and younger children use social platforms and how closely parents are monitoring these interactions.’
A majority of parents will only allow their children to use certain apps if they have parental controls (74%), are rated for their child’s age group (64%) or are needed for school (63%)
Parents who responded to the survey were split into two groups, those with children aged seven to nine and those with a child aged 10 to 12.
For parents with children in the younger age group, 32 percent reported their kids used social media.
However, 50 percent only allow their children to use educational apps and 18 percent do not allow their kid to use any apps.
Parents were a little more lenient when their child reaches aged ten to 12, with 49 percent reporting their kid uses social media, 28 percent only allowed to use educational apps and 23 percent not allowed to use apps at all.
A majority of parents will only let their children use certain apps if they include parental control.
Just under 75 percent only allow their children to use an app if it has parental controls, 64 percent only if the app is rated for their child’s age group and 63 percent only allow certain apps that are needed for school.
One out of every six parents who do allow for children to use apps do not use parental controls, though.
Additionally, more than half of all parents report not being able to find those controls, and just under a third report that their children will manage to get around the controls anyway.
Around two out every five of those parents – 39 percent – say that it is too time consuming to monitor their child’s social media activity.
‘If parents are allowing younger children to engage in social media, they should take responsibility for making the child’s online environment as safe as possible,’ Clark said.
‘If parents can’t commit to taking an active role in their child’s social media use, they should have their child wait to use these apps.’
Many parents share the same concerns about their child’s social media use as well.
Around 70 percent of parents fear that their child will share private information or encounter a sexual predator online.
Slightly less, 64 percent, fear their child will view some adult content or will read false information that they will not be able to discern.
Nearly 40% of parents report not having enough time to monitor their children’s social media use, and a third say their child could get around the controls anyways
Parents are most worried about their children sharing private information online or encountering sexual predators
To protect their children from these kinds of harms, Clark recommends parents to take a more hands on approach to youth social media use and to discuss online safety with their kids regularly.
‘Parents should be guiding children toward safe use of social media apps through both parental controls and having regular conversations with their kids to teach them online safety rules,’ Clark said.
‘For young kids who are using these apps for the first time, it’s especially important for their parents to stay vigilant about content they’re engaging with and who they’re talking to.
‘Parents should also be transparent that they plan to monitor their child’s profiles, posts and interactions on social media until they’re older.’