How young is too young?

babies-on-facebook

It’ll likely come as no surprise that the most popular users of social media are the younger generation, but at what age exactly are children being introduced and exposed to this digital world, and how young is too young?

Staggeringly, in a recent survey, it was revealed that more than a third of children between the ages of 9 and 12 are thought to have a Facebook profile, and this is despite regulations that state they must be over 13. In a similar report in 2011, this was estimated to be 7.5 million people (aged 12 and under).

So why are these young people turning to social media at such a young age? A huge possibility is that the likes of Farmville and other such games are proving too much of an attraction, or maybe that they’re growing up in a world that so heavily depends on these sites they want to be part of the ‘craze’ and see it as the norm. You can’t exactly ‘hide’ away from social media when businesses, for example, are shoving it down our throats in all their marketing campaigns.

It can be debated whose fault it is that  these youngsters are breaking the rules and creating their own online profiles. Yes Facebook has set these rules and asks for a date of birth when creating your page, but it does not need any form of confirmation of this. and there are never any checks made with regards to this. In an interview with The Guardian, Facebook admitted that there is next-to-nothing they can do to stop younger users setting up their own profiles. But is that really the case? When investigating this, I discovered that at no point in the setting-up of a profile, was it made clear or pointed out that there was a minimum age. Facebook have stated however, that the rule is not because they deem the site unsafe but rather “because of a US law about children’s online safety” which they have applied globally.

Parents could also quite easily be to be blame. Surely they should know what their children get up to and be the ones to stop them from breaking line rules? Well, not exactly… In fact it’s been reported that they have been known to do the exact opposite. In 2012, Children’s minister Tim Loughton said that parents were actually helping their kids to create their own underage social network profiles. Irresponsible?

Perhaps schools should do more to educate and protect children as to the hazards of online socialising? Andy Affleck, an alumni of Dartmouth College, argues that schools would call in parents if bullying was occurring, so why shouldn’t they have responsibility to do the same in the online world?

Argument has it that children need to have “concrete experiences” in the sense that working with physical objects rather than virtual will be far more beneficial. Parents bring their children up teaching them what they want them to know, but allowing them to go online, onto social networking sites and potentially talk to strangers, could severely affect their knowledge, understanding and persona.

Even more concerning perhaps, is that 5% of babies* “have a social media profile” (2010). This is a phenomenon that has been sweeping the online world where parents are creating social media profiles for their children, often unborn, so that they can share photos and information with friends, of their pregnancy and parenthood. Staggeringly, 23% of foetuses had images of their antenatal scan uploaded before birth.

But what if babies actually did control their own social media…

*babies under two years-old

Bibliography / References:

More than half of children use social media by the age of 10

Exploring children’s use of social media

5% of babies have a “social media profile”

How young is too young?

Social networks and kids

Powerless Facebook

Parents helping to break age limits

Children ignore Facebook rules

 

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