Children unprepared for social media ‘cliff edge’ as they start secondary school, Children’s Commissioner for England warns in new report
New report on effects of social media on 8-to-12-year-olds shows the way children use social media and its effects on their wellbeing hits a ‘cliff edge’ when they start secondary school.
- ‘Life in Likes’ fills a gap in research showing how younger children use platforms which the social media companies say are not designed for them.
- While 8-10s use social media in a playful, creative way – often to play games – this changes significantly as children’s social circles expand in Year 7.
- The report shows many Year 7 children are finding social media hard to manage and becoming over-dependent on ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ for social validation. They also adapt their offline behaviour to fit an online image.
- Children become increasingly anxious about their online image and ‘keeping up appearances’ as they get older. This can be made worse when they start to follow celebrities and others outside close family and friends and this group grows significantly upon starting secondary school. Their use of platforms like Instagram and Snapchat can also undermine children’s view of themselves by making them feel inferior to the people they follow.
- Children feel social pressure to be constantly connected at the expense of other activities – especially in secondary school where the whole class often have their own phone and are on social media.
- Children worry about ‘sharenting’ – parents posting pictures of them on social media without their permission; they feel that parents will not listen if they ask for them to take photos down.
- Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield is calling on schools and parents to prepare children for this change towards the end of primary school. She also calls for compulsory digital literacy and online resilience lessons for Year 6 and 7s, so that they learn about the emotional side of social media and not just messages about safety.
Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, is today launching a new report, ‘Life in Likes’, on the impact of social media on the lives of children before they become teenagers. Whilst most social media sites have an official age limit of 13 years, some research has suggested ¾ of 10-to-12 year olds have a social media account. Today’s report reveals many children are approaching a ‘cliff edge’ as they transition from primary to secondary school, with social media becoming much more important in their lives but causing them greater anxiety. The study suggests some children are becoming almost addicted to ‘likes’ as a form of social validation that makes them happy and that many are increasingly anxious about their online image and ‘keeping up appearances’.
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