England’s #Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield has spoken out and suggested that schools need to prepare #Secondary School aged children about the emotional demands and pressures of #Social media. She has recommended to the government that they bring in mandatory digital literacy and online resilience lessons for pupils. Parents should also help prepare their children and educate them about the negative impact and the risks of social media can have she says.

Longfield reported that according to the study Life for Likes saw children as young as eight using social media and being unable to manage the effects it had. Many of them were seeing likes and comments as an indicator of social validation.

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Disconnect

In a world where it is becoming harder to disconnect with phones, laptops and other devices always being too hand, children were not getting a break from the numerous online accounts they have. Longfield recommends that schools and parents need to prepare children emotionally and teach them about digital literacy.

She addresses the issue of the transition to secondary school is where the pressure increases as it is viewed as socially damaging to disconnect, parents are finding it hard to tell their children they cannot have accounts when friends and peers have them.

Many social media channels have a minimum age of thirteen to be able to open account, however the report suggests that children as young as ten have accounts such as SnapChat, Facebook and Instagram.

We live in a digital age which dictates our social expectations, providing us with unreal ideals.

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This can be harmful to vulnerable children at a time where they are finding their own identity. Parents are often accused of over sharing (or ‘sharenting’) and pre-teens are now becoming more aware that this could damage them socially.

Celebrities are all sharing their lives online and children will now have access to this, and other people who are outside of their inner circle for perhaps the first time via social media. According to Longfield’s report this can lead to some of the children feeling inferior when they look at these accounts and compare themselves to the fantastical images we see every day.

Unrealistic ideals

Children are becoming over dependent on social media and are ‘ill equipped’, to deal with the issues this brings the report confirms. SnapChat, Instagram and Whats App are all used by youngsters and the report studied thirty-two children aged between eight and twelve.

Eight to ten-year olds use social media for fun and playful reasons the study suggested but when children transition to secondary school these reasons change significantly.

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Anxiety and pressure sees modern children not being able to keep up with the demands social media is placing on them leaving them to feel undermined and worthless the commissioner’s report advises.

Social media platforms maintain that users younger than thirteen should not be joining up. The NSPCC however says that they should be doing more alongside parents to prevent this from happening. It isn’t too hard to lie about your date of birth to make you the required age.

As social media and technology evolves so does the need to educate the next generation abut safety and how to be emotionally happy online, especially at a time that is symptoms with teenage angst, confusion over identity and social pressure from peers.

We will need to wait and see if the government take on the commissioner’s recommendations and begin to introduce preventative measures in schools to protect children’s wellbeing when using social media.