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Social Media – is it worth it?

We asked a secondary school pupil, who has recently finished their GSCEs to think back to when they were a tween. We asked what they'd like to go back and tell their younger self. They focused on their views on social media and gave some advice on it. Here's what they said:

For a pre-teen, social media can act as a symbol of maturity. Many children (and parents) can feel it helps to bridge the gap between child and teenager, but in reality, many teenagers regret having it so young later down the line.

50% of the UK’s 10 year olds owned a smartphone in 2019, and that statistic can have only gone up since, especially with the rise of social media usage during COVID19 lockdowns in the past 18 months. Apps such as TikTok have become increasingly popular for children aged 8-12, despite the age limit being 13.

Although it may seem obvious, it’s important to recognise that different social media platforms are used for different things, and a child’s wants and needs around social media will change as they get older. It may seem an easy solution to simply ban your child from having such platforms, but given the society we live in now, doing so is likely to exclude them from some social groups.

In my opinion, as a 16 year old who has grown up with the internet, I don’t think that apps such as Whatsapp or other messaging services are harmful for children age 8-12. They allow friends to keep in touch outside school hours, which I think can be really helpful in building new friendships, particularly at the start of secondary school, for example.

However, I don’t think that content sharing social media apps such as Instagram and Tik Tok are appropriate for a child until they reach the set age limit for the app. The age limit is there for a reason, that reason being younger children are more easily shaped by media and could be exposed to content not appropriate for their age. Far too many children are growing up too fast because of the standards set online, and don’t have a proper understanding of online safety when it comes to posting their own content.

As social media is new and ever-evolving, it is a lot to expect from parents to be able to keep an eye on their child’s online activity 24/7. Once anyone shares anything on the internet, it’s out there forever. An 8-12 year old is unlikely to fully understand what it means to share content online, and many of my friends/peers have regretted their childhood posts later down the line.

Social media isn’t as simple as “have it” or “don’t have it” – it’s much, much better for parents to talk to their children about how to get the best out of it, whilst trying to steer clear of any negatives or dangers. It’s important for children to learn how to use social media to their advantage, but the tween years should be about dipping your toes into the social media ocean – there’s plenty of time later to dive right in!

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