Many young children use social media and their activities are often not monitored by parents, a new poll shows.
Researchers from the University of Michigan surveyed parents of children ages seven to 12 to ask about their children’s use of social media and how engaged they are in monitoring activity.
They found that a third of young people aged seven to nine and just under half of children aged ten 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 regularly monitoring their child’s social use is too time-consuming.
A majority of parents also expressed concerns about children sharing private information, encountering sexual predators, seeing adult images or videos, or failing to discern false information.
The rise of smart devices has also given children easy access to social media apps such as Instagram and TikTok, making parents more concerned about their child’s online use (file image)
About a third of children aged seven to nine use social media, and just under half of children aged ten to twelve use the apps. Less than a quarter of kids that age don’t use apps at all, according to a survey
As devices such as tablets and smartphones become commonplace in American households, children today 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 that is easily accessible, much of which is not suitable for young children.
Michigan researchers conducted a national survey of parents to find out how parents cope with the trials and tribulations of raising a child in a social media-obsessed world.
“There is still debate about how soon is too early when it comes to using social apps and how parents should monitor this,” Sarah Clark, Mott Poll co-director of the poll, said in a statement.
“Our poll looks at how often tweens and younger children use social platforms and how closely parents monitor these interactions.”
A majority of parents only allow their children to use certain apps if they have parental controls (74%), rated for their child’s age group (64%) or required for school (63%)
Parents who responded to the survey were divided into two groups, those with children ages seven to nine and those with a child ages 10 to 12.
Of parents with children in the younger age group, 32 percent reported that their children used social media.
However, 50 percent only allow their children to use educational apps and 18 percent do not allow their child to use apps.
Parents were a bit more lenient when their child reached the age of 10 to 12, with 49 percent stating that their child uses social media, 28 percent should only use educational apps and 23 percent should not use any apps at all.
A majority of parents only allow their children to use certain apps if they contain parental controls.
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 necessary for school.
However, one in six parents who allow children to use apps do not use parental controls.
In addition, more than half of all parents report that they can’t find those controls, and just under a third report that their kids will still manage to get around the controls.
About two in five of those parents — 39 percent — say it’s too time-consuming to monitor their child’s social media activities.
“If parents allow younger children to participate in social media, they must 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 use of social media, they should make their child wait to use these apps.”
Many parents share the same concerns about their child’s use of social media.
About 70 percent of parents fear that their child will share private information or encounter a sexual predator online.
Slightly fewer, 64 percent, fear that their child will watch certain adult content or read false information that they cannot discern.
Nearly 40% of parents say they don’t have enough time to monitor their children’s social media use, and a third say their child could still get around the controls
Parents are most concerned about their children sharing private information online or encountering sexual predators
To protect their children from this kind of harm, Clark recommends that parents take a more practical approach to youth use of social media and regularly discuss online safety with their children.
“Parents should guide children towards safe use of social media apps through both parental controls and by talking to their children regularly to teach them online safety rules,” Clark said.
“For young children who are using these apps for the first time, it’s especially important that their parents remain vigilant about the content they interact with and who they talk to.
“Parents should also be transparent that they plan to follow their child’s profiles, posts and interactions on social media until they are older.”