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One in four British parents allow children under 13 to sign up to Facebook

children on a computer

One in four British parents allow children under 13 to sign up to Facebook

A recent study conducted by Nominet has shown that as many as 25% of British parents allow their children aged 13 or under to have their own account on social media site Facebook.

Children’s charity NSPCC has warned that this could potentially put their children at risk. There are various potential risks to children with social media accounts, including cyberbullying and exposure to inappropriate content, as well as the mental health issues these can bring.

One of the terms of use for social site Facebook states that children under the age of 13 cannot have their own account, but there is a growing number of children below this age barrier registering an account. This is predominantly down to peer pressure in the classroom, and the new research shows that parents are prepared to assist their children in signing up to the site.

Furthermore, the study also found that 16% of parents have allowed their under 13s to have an account on photo-sharing platform Instagram, with 13% giving permission for pre-teens to have an account on photo-messaging platform Snapchat. Both of these apps have location tracking functionality which prompted the police to issue warnings in relation to child safety last year. This was not long after Snapchat introduced its Snap Map feature that allows users to track their friends. Both of these sites also have a minimum age of 13 to join.

The NSPCC also warns that a 20% of parents are putting their pre-teen children’s safety at risk by sharing videos and photos of them on their own accounts on various social media platforms. The study found that an average of 29 videos and 71 photos are shared of children under the age of 13 by their parents each year.

In recent times, a group of child experts has called for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to pull the plug on one of the company’s latest projects, Messenger Kids. The group has warned that exposing pre-teens to social media at such a young age could have damaging effects on their mental health, and that it could be detrimental to their development.

However, Facebook states that it developed the app while consulting both child experts and parents. The functionality of the app means that parents control who is friends with their child, and all messages are to be approved by the parents, whose accounts are connected to the child’s.

Alan Littler

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