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Underage social media users identify its negatives

By Yusuf Tamanna

The experience young people are having online using social media is leading them to question their own identify and appearance, according to a new report out today.

The Children’s Commissioner ‘Life in ‘likes’ report into social media use among 8-12 year-olds looked into how young people, mainly those below the legal age to use social media apps, are interacting with their peers and behaving online.

The study interviewed 32 children, all under the legal age required to use social media ,and found children were constantly using social media throughout the day, during school and at home. It found that many of them were overly dependent on getting ‘likes’ and regarded them as a way of fitting in and a barometer of their self-worth.

Of the children who took part in the report, many of them identified the following negatives of using social media;

  • I feel jealous when I see what other people are doing and the things they have.
  • I feel like I have to be online even when I don’t want to be.
  • I don’t know who to trust.
  • I don’t understand why my parents need to post pictures of me.
  • I get scared when I think about what could happen if I am not safe on social media.

A familiar story

The findings were similar to a study carried out by Parent Zone in 2016 into whether internet use is undermining young people’s mental health. The report found that 25% of young people agreed the internet had a detrimental effect on their mental health and a further 47% said that using the internet made them feel angry.

 

A mixed bag: children express the good and bad elements of using social media

Recommendations

The Children’s Commissioner has called for the digital literacy element of the National Curriculum to be improved and designed in a way that prepares young people for living life online. This includes encouraging children to be more critically aware of what they see online and managing the change in social media use that occurs when they leave primary school and begin secondary school.

Finally, there was a recommendation to improve parents' understanding of social media and understanding how their own relationship with apps, like Instagram and Snapchat, can impact the way their children use them in their day-to-day lives.