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Quarter of parents allow under 13s on Facebook

Child on phone

The NSPCC has issued a warning after it was revealed that a quarter of parents in the UK allow children under the age of 13 to have a Facebook account.

As the Daily Telegraph notes, Facebook’s terms state users must be 13 or over to have an account. However it is believed that peer pressure in the classroom is causing an increasing number of younger children to want to sign up. And, from this research, it seems parents are willing to flout the rules and sign them up early.

According to the study, 16% of parents also allow children under the age of 13 to have an Instagram account, while 13% allow them to be on Snapchat, despite both these photo-sharing apps also having a minimum age of 13. What’s more, police forces ended up issuing a child safety warning about Snapchat use last year, following the addition of Snapchat’s location tracking function, Snap Map.

This research comes as child health experts urged Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to pull Facebook Kids, a version of the social media’s Messenger app that has been designed for users as young as six years old. The company stated that it wanted to provide younger users with a way of keeping in touch with the people they loved but that also met with the level of controls parents would want.

While Facebook Kids is not currently available in the UK, it has already launched across the pond in the US.

The child health experts wrote: “A growing body of research demonstrates that excessive use of digital devices and social media is harmful to children and teens, making it very likely this new app will undermine children’s healthy development.”

A spokesperson for the NSPCC commented: “We all have a part to play in keeping children safe online.

“Both parents and children need to understand the benefits and risks that come with posting a picture on the internet. As children get older it’s normal for them to want a say in what their parents share about them online. What’s important is that families have conversations, and agree what’s okay and what’s not okay to share.”

But the children’s charity also believes governments and social networks should take more responsibility, adding: “The NSPCC is calling on Government to force social networks to offer Safe Accounts to under 18s, with extra protections built in, as part of its Internet Safety Strategy.”

And it seems there are some keen to take action. In America, former Facebook, Google and Mozilla executives have come together with the Time Well Spent advocacy group to establish the Center for Humane Technology (CHT). According to Tech News World, the aim of this new organisation is to combat the growing issue of addictive behaviour among social media users, and children and teenagers in particular.

It is working with the children’s advocacy group Common Sense to “lessen the negative impact of automation and other technologies on the development of children and young adults, who are considered highly vulnerable to the most damaging aspects of social media.”

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