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Increasing majority of children aged 8-12 use social media, according to new survey

Charity CyberSafeKids found that 92% of children in this age group own their own smart device.

Image: Shutterstock/Alena Ozerova

A CHILDREN’S ONLINE safety charity has found that over one-quarter of kids aged 8-12 are able to go online “whenever they want” and that the vast majority have social media profiles.

CyberSafeKids, formerly known as CyberSafeIreland, surveyed more than 2,000 children aged eight to 12 and found that levels of social media use among this age group have risen by 17% since last year.

Video app TikTok is the most commonly used among this age cohort, with 46% of children saying they use the app. 

The CEO of CyberSafeKids, Alex Cooney, said that Covid-19 restrictions have resulted in “more children than ever” using social media despite being younger than the minimum age required. Many apps require users to be at least 13 to sign up. 

“The age group we surveyed is still a very young audience and generally would be in the earlier stages of their online journey, and the message we want to get across is that they need parental guidance,” Cooney told TheJournal.ie. 

She said children in this age cohort should not be having “entirely independent experiences” online. 

“It’s important to have those conversations and put in rules like, for example, we can play on devices in the living room but can’t do it a bedroom with the door shut.” 

28% of children surveyed said they can go online “whenever they want” and 15% said there have “no rules” around internet use. 

The survey also showed that 28% of children have friends or followers who are strangers. 

35% of children said they used WhatsApp, and one-third use Snapchat. 

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The survey of 2,089 children aged between eight and 12 was carried out between September last year and January 2021. A total of 92% of these children say they own their own smart device. 

Cooney emphasised the benefits of the internet for educational and social reasons, but said that “especially when kids are young” it’s important to talk about limits and rules for social media usage. 

“We have probably relied more on technology in the last 12 months than we ever have – and that goes for kids too,” she said. 

“We all kind of know what we should be doing with things like healthy eating and road safety, for example, but we really need to fast-track putting in these social norms for digital wellbeing as well.” 

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