ANN ARBOR, Michigan – Social media can be a very painful place, even for a grown adult. With that in mind, a new study finds that a third of children between the ages of seven and nine are already using social media apps. However, a team from the University of Michigan says many of these young children are surfing social media without parental supervision.
The national survey finds that two-thirds of parents are concerned that their children are sharing private information through apps. Despite this, one in six parents with children on social media do not use parental controls, while two in five say monitoring their children’s internet use takes “too long.”
While teens creating TikTok videos, communicating through Snapchat, or developing their own Instagram accounts have become mainstream in the modern digital age, young children are also familiarizing themselves with these social platforms.
According to the CS Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan Health CS Mott Children’s Hospital, half of 10 to 12 year olds and a third of seven to nine year olds now use digital devices to communicate with others on social media . National Child Health Survey.
“There’s always a debate about when it’s too early to use social apps and how parents should oversee it,” said Sarah Clark, co-director of Mott Poll, in a statement. university outing. “Our survey examines how often tweens and young children use social platforms and how well parents monitor these interactions.”
Too much work to monitor social media?
The nationally representative report surveyed 1,030 parents with at least one child between the ages of seven and 12. Parents cited several challenges in monitoring their children’s social media use, with one in five saying they couldn’t find the information they needed to set up parental controls.
Two in five other respondents said it was “too long” to monitor their youth’s social media use. Just over a third think parental controls are a waste of time because they think their kids would find a loophole around them. Clark says parents should help their kids navigate the world of social media to help them understand the harms of over-sharing and interacting with strangers.
“If parents allow young children to engage in social media, they should take responsibility for making the child’s online environment as safe as possible,” adds Clark. “If parents cannot commit to taking an active role in their child’s use of social media, they should make their child wait to use these apps. “
When deciding which apps are appropriate and safe for their child, nearly three in four parents say they assess whether the app has parental controls. More than three in five consider the age of an app or whether their child needs the app for school.
How Do Parents Keep the Internet Safe?
Most respondents currently use at least one parental control feature, with almost two-thirds using parental blocking on some sites and three in five requiring parental approval for new contacts. More than half of moms and dads also use privacy settings, daily time limits, and passcodes for some content.
One-third of parents say their child has learned to use social media apps safely in school. These parents are also more likely to say their child uses social media apps. Although they let their young children use social media, one of the biggest concerns parents have is their children’s online privacy, their exposure to inappropriate content, and the possibility of meeting adult predators.
Although two-thirds of respondents are concerned that their child is sharing private information through apps, only 56% say they use privacy settings that limit data collection through children’s apps. Half of those polled also believe their child would be unable to spot an adult user on social media.
“It can be difficult to recognize an adult posing as a child on social media, so parents need to play a caretaker role for the younger ones,” says Clark.
Other parents worry that their children will be confronted with adult images or other content that is not appropriate for their age. Clark recommends that parents research the apps they plan to allow their child to use, including platforms that cater to children. This can include modified versions of apps popular with teens, such as Facebook’s Messenger Kids or TikTok’s “young user” section.
Combating the influence of disinformation
Other apps, designed specifically for pre-teens, try to limit online risks by restricting certain activities – such as posting photos or using private chats – and offering dashboards or reports to people. parents to monitor their child’s use of the app.
“Parents should check whether the content is organized to allow only youth-friendly programming or whether there is a moderator who eliminates inappropriate content,” continues the survey director. “They should also use parental blocks or access codes for certain sites or content.”
One in three parents are not sure their child can recognize what information is right or wrong on social media apps. Clark recommends that parents talk to their children about identifying credible sources and encourage children to rely on sites or sources of information recommended by their school or educational apps.
The study authors warn that helping children recognize edited images and videos can be more difficult. Clark says parents should have ongoing conversations with young children about what they read and see on social apps and help them recognize misinformation and altered images, as such content can lead to a distorted perception of l body image or encourage dangerous actions.
“Parents should guide children in the safe use of social media applications through parental controls and have regular conversations with their children to teach them the rules of online safety,” Clark concludes. “For young children who are using these apps for the first time, it’s especially important that their parents remain vigilant about what content they interact with and who they talk to. Parents should also be transparent about their intention to monitor their child’s profiles, posts and social media interactions until they are older.
South West News Service editor Stephen Beech contributed to this report.