82% of 8 to 12-year-olds now signed up to social media, messaging accounts

ireland
82% Of 8 To 12-Year-Olds Now Signed Up To Social Media, Messaging Accounts 82% Of 8 To 12-Year-Olds Now Signed Up To Social Media, Messaging Accounts
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Sarah Slater

Up to 82 per cent of 8 to 12-year-olds are now signed up to social media and messaging accounts, an online watchdog is warning.

Another 92 per cent own a smart device while 28 per cent of children can go online whenever they want and 15 per cent say they are not subject to rules by parents and guardians.

The data also shows that 28 per cent of children have friends or followers that are strangers.

Research published on Safer Internet Day by the childrens’ online safety charity CyberSafeKids, formerly known as CyberSafeIreland surveyed more than 2,000 children.

Online grooming

The Children’s online watchdog is using Safer Internet Day to remind parents, teachers and all those responsible for young children, that the heightened usage of devices when we are living in Covid lockdown brings increased risks, including exposure to inappropriate material and online grooming.

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The research shows that the majority of well-known social media apps have a minimum age use of 13, but the research makes clear that this is not stopping younger children being active.

The level of use of social media amongst the 8-12 age cohort has risen significantly, with the level of 82 per cent in this year’s survey compared with 65 per cent last year, and 60 per cent two years ago. Video app TikTok is the most commonly used app at 46 per cent followed by 35 per cent on WhatsApp and 33 per cent on Snapchat.

CyberSafeKids also recognises the enormous benefits that technology brings to our lives, but issued the warning due to the growth in use of social media and the challenges it presents and especially to more vulnerable users, including children.

Alex Cooney, CEO of CyberSafeKids, said: “Covid-19 restrictions mean that more children than ever are using social media despite being younger than the minimum age restrictions that are meant to apply.

“We’re concerned that there is not enough parental oversight of the content children are consuming, and that so many kids have friends or followers that they don’t actually know in real life.”

Ms Cooney added: “We want to use the opportunity to remind parents of the importance of being involved in their children’s online lives. It is essential that they are having conversations with their kids and putting boundaries in place, as well as keeping an eye on what they're consuming, who they’re talking to and what they’re posting.”

Online safety

CyberSafeKids is also taking the opportunity to launch its new CyberSafe Tool for Schools, which will support primary schools to achieve best practice in online safety. The CyberSafe Tool for Schools is free for schools to access and use.

The tools have been tested on a number of primary schools across the country to ensure that it is user-friendly and beneficial for school use.

Former Junior Higher Education Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor has joined its Board of Directors at CyberSafeKids.

Ms Mitchell O’Connor warned that it is imperative that all children benefit from a good online safety education, both at home through conversations with their parents and at school.

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