Younger children and social networking sites: a blind spot Online experiences of 11-12 year olds and how to protect them

Two boys playing with an IpadThis report describes the experiences of 11 and 12 year olds on social networking sites and looks at the roles parents, social network providers and regulation can play in protecting them.

It presents the findings from an online self-completion survey of 1,024 11-16 year olds in the UK, 28% of which were aged 11-12 years.

Our research found 23% of 11 and 12 year olds with a social networking site profile had been upset by something on it over the last year.

Authors: Claire Lilley and Ruth Ball
Published: 2013

  • Around half of 11 and 12 year olds in the UK have an underage profile.
  • Many of the most popular sites amongst 11 and 12 year olds, including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, have a minimum age of 13.
  • 23% of 11 and 12 year olds with a social networking site profile say they have been upset by something on it over the last year.
  • 18% of these felt upset or scared for weeks or months after the incident occurred.
  • 20% experienced something that upset them every day or almost every day.
  • 62% of these experiences were caused by strangers or people they only knew online.
  • Some providers of social networking sites with a minimum age of 13 say they do not provide bespoke advice for children under the age of 13, because they are not supposed to have a profile on their sites.
  • Nearly half (45%) of parents whose child had an underage profile on Facebook were unaware of the minimum age of 13 requirement (Ofcom, 2013).
  • All social networking sites should acknowledge that large numbers of underage children are using their sites, and increase the protection offered to younger children accordingly.
  • Ofcom should play a greater role in providing information for parents about social networking sites, and the risks children face on them.
  • The UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) should make tackling the risks children, including younger children, experience on social networking sites a priority issue; and independently evaluate the efforts made by social networking sites to improve child safety.
  • More research should be done into why younger children are joining social networking sites, their perceptions of risk, and the experiences and behaviour of specific sub-groups of children on such sites.
Foreword 5
Executive Summary 6
Section 1: 11 and 12 year olds’ use of social networking sites 11
Section 2: The experiences of younger children 13
Experience of things which have bothered them 13
Experience of particular things 14
Who children identified as responsible 16
How they felt 17
Frequency 17
Actions taken 19
Section 3: The role of parents 20
Section 4: The role of social network providers and regulation 21
Section 5: Recommendations 25
Appendix 1: Methodology and ethics 27
Appendix 2: Population data 28
Appendix 3: Quotations 30

Please cite as: Lilley, C. and Ball, R. (2013) Youngerchildren and social networking sitesa blind spot. [London]: NSPCC.

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