#being13 What is life like for children on Social Media?

Last week CNN America aired #being13, a special program exploring the results of the first large scale study analysing what children say and do on social media, and why it is SO important to them.

The study was run over two years, and involved over 200 12-13 year olds, whose parents consent to having their child’s social media behaviour on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram archived and studied. Over the two year period over 150,000 posts on social media were analysed, children and their parents also participated in questionnaires. The study made many interesting findings, which will certainly be an eye-opener to any parents with young children on social media.

Researchers found majority of teens were heavily dependant on social media, with some children’s dependency levels drawing comparisons to that of an outright addiction. Many children in the study admitted that they check their social media feeds MORE THAN 100 TIMES A DAY! When children were unable to check their social media feeds, they reported feelings of anxiety and isolation. Many children admitted that they say things online that they would never say in person, with one child reporting, ‘I don’t like dealing with things face to face, because it is much easier to hide behind your phone.’

Children also admitted they use social media to study where they stand in the social networks of their peers, revealing that they examine the number of likes/follows they have, and use these numbers as some sort of barometer to measure social status.

Researchers were disturbed by the amount of profanity, sexually explicit language, and references to drug use that appeared in the social media posts they examined. Common examples included:

  • Telling other children to ‘go die’
  • Criticising appearance/outfits
  • Accusing others of trying ‘too hard to be popular’
  • Threatening other users, saying they are going to ‘get bashed’
  • Other examples too explicit to publish!

Another major concern drawn from the study was the prevalence of sexually explicit content on social media. 15% of children in the study reported that they had been sent inappropriate content on social media. Children who had been sent inappropriate content on social media were almost 50% MORE DISTRESSED than the other children in the study. There was also a worrying prevalence of revenge porn, where children post sexually explicit photos of ex boyfriends or girlfriends after they break up.

This study certainly provided many new and similarly disturbing insights into social media use amongst young children. Researchers interviewed the parents of the 200 children involved in the study, and found that 94% of parents underestimated the amount of fighting and bickering that occurs on social media! The study highlighted the importance of parental supervision and involvement when it comes to younger children using social media.

For more tips on keeping your child safe on Instagram, check out some of our following posts:

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