Since the release of the first social media platform, ‘Six Degrees’, in 1997, Social media has taken the world by storm. Everyone uses it from multi-million pound companies, the general public, celebrities and even the Queen. It can be a very useful and tool where you can communicate with friends you might not see regular, promote your business to a worldwide audience in an instant and even turn your photos into something worthy of a high end fashion magazine. So what is the downside?
Children today are becoming increasingly anxious about their online image as they head into their teens. There is an almost impossible expectation to keep up with their peers social media activity, gain likes, streaks and to share the ‘perfect’ image.
Research commissioned by Ann Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England, looked into the effects of social media on children aged 8 to 12. It found the impact of the internet changed around the time pupils moved up into secondary schools. They switched from using mostly gaming apps to social media platforms.
There is an ever-growing need for schools to play a bigger role in preparing school children for the effects of social media and the pressures they will mostly likely face when entering secondary school. There is a huge impact on the children’s wellbeing, struggling to cope with the demands of the social media epidemic.
Some schools are now calling for digital literacy education to become compulsory and to incorporate a ‘peer-to-peer’ element. Ann Longfield warned that the children starting secondary school are; “ill-equipped to cope with the sudden demands of social media as their world expands”, and wants the government to broaden digital literacy education in schools.
“I want to see children living healthy digital lives,” she said. “It means a bigger role for schools in making sure children are prepared for the emotional demands of social media.”
Although most social media platforms have a minimum age limit of 13, the report said three-quarters of children aged 10 to 12 already had accounts.
The report shows that many children in year 7 – the first year of secondary school when almost everyone in the class will have a phone and be active on social media – feel under pressure to be constantly connected, often at the expense of other activities.
They worry about their online image, particularly when they start to follow celebrities on Instagram and other platforms. They are also concerned about “sharenting” – when parents post pictures of them on social media without their permission – and worry that their parents won’t listen if they ask them to take pictures down.
Internet Safety Strategy
The Government have published the Internet Safety Green Paper, which aims to tackle dangers like cyber-bullying, trolling and under-age access to porn, the paper proposes:
- A new social media code of practice to see a joined-up approach to remove or address bullying, intimidating or humiliating online content
- An industry-wide levy so social media companies and communication service providers contribute to raise awareness and counter internet harms
- An annual internet safety transparency report to show progress on addressing abusive and harmful content and conduct
- And support for tech and digital startups to think safety first – ensuring that necessary safety features are built into apps and products from the very start
In the past year, almost one fifth of 12-15 year olds encountered something online that they ‘found worrying or nasty in some way’ and 64% of 13-17 year olds have seen images or videos offensive to a particular group. Nearly half of adult users also say they have seen something that has upset or offended them on social media.
Whilst this is a step in the right direction we are still a long way off from Schools having a digital literacy programme which they can teach children the dangers of the addictive social media apps, it then falls on the parents to highlight these issues.