The importance of staying safe online

12 October 2018

Industry Insights

Safety online - it’s a very popular topic at the moment, and rightly so. With more younger children going online in 2018 than 2016, there is much debate but limited research on the subject matter and growing concern about the pervasive use of social media on the mental health and development of children.

With half of 11 and 12 year olds having their own social media profiles ‘Life in likes’ (Children’s Commissioner, 2018) concludes there is a significant gap in understanding this subject.

Topics such as cyber bullying, anxiety, and depression are fuelling a large debate among MPs and what’s being done to protect people online, in particularly children.

Why should we need to be concerned? Let’s have a look at the stats…

In 2017 Plan International UK found that nearly 50% of girls aged between 11-18 years old had experienced online abuse.

Girls aged 12-15 say they spend more than 21 hours per week on their mobile phones – nearly 50% more time than boys

Boys aged 8-11 and 12-15 are more likely to play online games against people they don’t know. 23% use the chat feature to talk to people they only know through gaming with them – shocking.

84% of children aged 12-15 years old own 3 or more devices

86% of 3-4 year olds have access to a tablet

83% of 12-15 year olds own a smartphone

What can be done?

Firstly, educating parents (and children) around social media is key. Following an Ofcom study into the media use and attitudes of children and parents (2017), discovered that parental awareness of the minimum age limit to sign up to social media platforms was low - with about eight in 10 of those parents whose children use Instagram or Snapchat unaware of the restrictions.

And, with more parents concerned about their children’s media use than ever before, more are taking action to protect their children online and are turning to apps and software to put safety measures in place.

Most parents are using a combination approach to manage their children’s Internet use, with nearly all parents of 5-15s using at least one technical tool to supervise their children. More than 9 in 10 parents of 5-15s who use parental controlled software consider it useful. There are of course other technical tools to manage online access and use, including restricted modes, pins and passwords.

We live in an age where the younger generation feel pressured to live through ‘likes’, it’s not the childhood of taking your bike out with your mates for an ice cream anymore. Social media sites can be damaging to children’s mental health.

What are social media platforms doing to tackle this?

The good news is, more and more platforms are working to tackle problems like cyber bullying and over-using the channels.

Whatsapp is set to raise its minimum age limit to 16 in the EU and Facebook and Instagram have now launched a setting to help you mange how much time you spend on the platforms in an attempt to reduce obsessive behaviours.

Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram recently tweeted about a new anti bullying AI tool they are working on to identify and report bullying in photos through AI technology – we’ll be keeping a close eye on this one.