‘Their childhoods shouldn’t be owned’: readers on children and social media

Social Media

Small boy sitting on sofa looking at a tablet

A study found almost half of eight to 11-year-olds agreed for social media sites to share their photos and private messages with other companies, not fully understanding the terms and conditions they agreed to.

According to the children’s commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, children “regularly and unknowingly” sign over their digital rights to Facebook and Instagram.

We asked parents and teachers how they felt about children on social media. Here is a selection of our readers’ responses.

‘Children do not need a special ombudsman – they need parents doing their job’

No child who is aged between eight and 11 should have access to social media of any kind. My daughter is eight and I don’t let her see any of it. Children do not need a special ombudsman or Ts&Cs they can specially understand or anything like that. They need parents doing their job and preventing them from using social media inappropriately. Parents need to monitor their children’s internet and smartphone use and block inappropriate sites from them. It is ridiculous to try to create more rules and regulations for a group who are legally too young to be using Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. If their parents want to bend the rules, as many do, they must then be held responsible for the consequences to their child.

If parents are going to allow their children online, they must be involved in their internet and social media use and must lead by example. We must talk to other parents and schools to try to create an atmosphere where not every 10 year old is on Facebook or tweeting away.

Rachel, single mother working full time for an economics think tank in London

‘I’ve explained to them that their childhoods should not be captured and owned by other people’

I feel really strongly about this, as we run a technology company ourselves, have loads of devices at home, and in no way are against it. Our kids (nine and 10) are online and use computers quite a bit – and they love YouTube and the apps and games they can play.

There are many concerns about young children being online. Mine are not allowed to chat online with anonymous ‘kids’ when playing their apps, nor are they allowed to use Facebook. I also respectively ask other people not to post pictures of them online or search the internet without an adult present. I’ve explained to them that their childhoods should not be captured and owned by other people. They can do that when they are adults if they want to.

But I am aghast at what some parents let their children do – access 16+ material, randomly searching and posting personal stuff on social media sites. I think the rise of internet bullying, and unauthorised use of people’s images in horrible memes and jokes just goes to show that the world created by social media can be a Hobbesian nightmare. You wouldn’t let your kids wander into a sex club, or play games in the middle of a battlefield, or wander around at night with strangers milling about, and yet that is the context they have access to online.

I tell my children to not think of the internet as a ‘safe’ place. We tell them that it’s the equivalent of us dumping them in the middle of London and leaving them for three hours.

Anonymous, fortysomething who runs a technology business in Bedford

‘Social media should be legislated against for their lack of responsibility’

What concerns me is the time my grandchildren spend on these devices when they tell me they have no time for other things. They seem highly stressed. They truly believe what they see and read and they find it difficult to concentrate.

Of course they do not understand terms and conditions because adults do not understand either. But there is a way to behave and conduct yourselves which is lost in the fixation of these devices. I think there should be approved safe sites. Social media should be legislated against for their lack of responsibility of the actions of its users. Shut them down if necessary.

Ian, grandparent to five between 10 and 18-years-old, Huddersfield

‘Parents have to constantly negotiate content and wrestle the computer away’

My child is six and too young to understand terms and conditions, but the online advertising that appears to children is so aggressive. If they watch one Disney clip on YouTube suddenly all the ads are for Disney films, Disney Princess dolls, and gender-based advertising of related toys, clothing etc. It’s obvious that their behaviour is being watched over time and content tailored to their age, background and vulnerability to advertising. There’s really no safe space online to just watch a cartoon or music clip without being profiled as a consumer.

The result is that parents have to constantly negotiate content and wrestle the computer away – even while a child is studying, for example watching a documentary or looking something up on Wikipedia – to prevent their child from being exposed to content that they have not agreed to see.

[Source:-The Guardian]