Ninety-nine percent of children and adolescents between the ages of 3 and 17 use social media

The risks that social networks bring at different ages, such as attention problems, stress and anxiety need to be assessed.| Photo: Bigstock

A report from the UK’s Communications Regulatory Authority shows that children and adolescents between the ages of 3 and 17 are frequent users of social media. According to the survey, in 2021, 99% of people in this age group used the Internet. YouTube was the most popular platform, with 89% of children accessing it and 50% of them using TikTok to watch and share short videos.

Always follow family on Instagram!

Users must be 13 years of age or older on most social media platforms. However, the report found that most children have at least one app or a profile on social media sites before they reach adulthood. In addition, one-third of parents of children between the ages of 5 and 7 confirm that their child has an account on social media, and this number has increased to 60% among children between the ages of 8 and 11.

This is because restrictions are easy to overcome: setting a child’s profile or “profile” requires only a false age, as is often the case – on the same platform – one for their friends and the other for their parents to show.

The report also found that about 16% of three- and four-year-olds watched the video. It’s not clear if these videos are on a parent’s account, other people’s or a child’s own profile, but the data confirms that teens are exposed to social networks very quickly. Therefore, it is appropriate to evaluate how this use may affect them in different age groups.

Advantages – Disadvantages

First, this involvement can have both positive and negative effects. According to a survey my colleagues and I have already completed, the use of social networks is important for adolescents to gain emotional support, build a community and find a place to express themselves. However, it can have a negative effect on her mental health and well-being.

In our work at the Nottingham Trent University Cyber ​​Psychology Research Group, we talked about the perceived challenges and harms of using social media with young adolescents, their parents and teachers. As a result, we find that they spend more time online, display behavioral changes due to peer judgment, and suffer serious cognitive and emotional consequences, such as attention problems, stress, and anxiety.

In addition, new research suggests that these networks may interfere with the well-being of children or adolescents. In a large UK sample of more than 17,000 young people between the ages of 10 and 21, researchers found that adverse effects were most common in boys aged 14, 15 and 19, and in girls aged 11, 12, 13 and 19.

In fact, former Facebook employee Francis Haugen revealed in 2021 that the company’s internal research has repeatedly shown the harmful mental health effects of using Instagram for girls.

Another reason to evaluate is related to the excessive time of exposure to the screen, which can be associated with symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression and addiction. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under the age of 2 should not be exposed to the screen at any time, and children under the age of 5 should use them with a maximum of one hour of educational content per day. It’s true that although we don’t know exactly what kind of information kids are seeing on social media, it’s less likely to be high-quality.

What can we do?

We need to consider the harmful effects that Internet use can have on young people in general and the vulnerable in particular. This requires greater user protection (such as age verification) and harm prevention initiatives (such as school education about benefits and potential harms of use).

It is also important that communities and government agencies engage in education and awareness campaigns, such as enhancing corporate social responsibility. And while we discourage excessive pathology of everyday behavior – such as assuming that everyone who spends hours online has problems using the Internet, for example – problematic behavior needs to be recognized and users need to be supported. This can prevent negative consequences for your mental health.

* Daria Kus Associate Professor of Psychology and Leader of the Cyber ​​Psychology Research Group at Nottingham Trent University, England

© 2022 Conversation. Published with permission. Original in English.

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