A new study by Canadian firm Mediasmart.ca reveals (again) that almost all kids are online, and many of them are participating in social media at an age that poses risks for them, and should raise some questions for parents who arguably would be serving their kids well by being more involved in their digital lives.
The fact that older kids – we’re talking about teens here – are very active on social networks including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, is not at all surprising.
What may be surprising, and is more problematic, is that a large number of younger users are active on social networks, and at the same time struggle to understand the privacy and safety implications.
Among the key findings for younger kids:
- Among students in grades 4 – 6, 32% have a Facebook account and 16% have a Twitter account
- 18% of 4th grade students post to social media at least weekly
- 28% of 5th grade students post to social media at least weekly
- 37% of 6th grade students post to social media at least weekly
- 48% of students have lied about their age in order to join social networks
- 90% of students don’t “believe” that strangers “should” have access to their social media, but only 50% have used privacy settings to block strangers
This particular report does not focus on two online risks that we see all too often – cyberbullying and predator risk – but the fact that kids are social networking at a young age without a firm grasp on who sees what and how protected they are, or aren’t, highlights that fact that a better education effort is warranted.
The age limit for Facebook and Twitter is 13, so effectively 0% of kids in grades 4 – 6 “should” have an account. The study doesn’t get into what percentage of parents condone underage use, but the fact that kids admit to lying about their age to gain admission as early as 4th grade is a pretty good indication that a lot of parents are either unaware or indifferent.
Interestingly, Mediasmarts, the author of the study, Facebook and the Canadian Federation of Teachers are teaming together in an effort to educate kids on digital citizenship. One can hope that part of their commendable effort focuses on the parents, who really are the first line of defense against unsafe internet activity by teens and pre teens, and should be where kids turn first when they run into online problems.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.