Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, has launched a new report, ‘Life in Likes’, on the impact of social media on the lives of children before they become teenagers. Whilst most social media sites have an official age limit of 13 years, some research has suggested ¾ of 10-to-12 year olds have a social media account. The report reveals many children are approaching a ‘cliff edge’ as they transition from primary to secondary school, with social media becoming much more important in their lives but causing them greater anxiety. The study suggests some children are becoming almost addicted to ‘likes’ as a form of social validation that makes them happy and that many are increasingly anxious about their online image and ‘keeping up appearances’.
The study shows how social media is important for maintaining relationships, but this gets harder for children to manage at secondary school. Children are constantly contactable and connected, and being ‘offline’ or uncontactable is considered socially damaging. Some children talked about feeling social pressure as a result: people could fall out if their friends felt they weren’t responsive enough online, even to relatively superficial interactions, for example not responding quickly enough to ‘Snapstreak’ messages, so that the ‘streak’ between two friends was lost. By secondary school, where children felt the whole class was on social media, this pressure becomes impossible to ignore.
The full report can be found at – www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk