Many younger children use social media, but fewer parents engage controls, a new survey has found. Photo by Pixelkult/Pixabay
Oct. 18 (UPI) -- One out of three children ages 7 to 9 use some form of social media, according to the results of a national poll released Monday.
In addition, nearly half of those ages 10 to 12 indicated that they are on social media, the data showed.
Still, one in six parents of elementary and middle schoolers who use social media report that they do not use parental controls, the survey, conducted by the University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children's Hospital found.
Roughly 40% say that it is too time consuming to monitor kids' social use, the researchers behind the survey said.
"There continues to be debate over how soon is too soon when it comes to using social apps and how parents should oversee it," Sarah Clark, co-director of the Mott Poll, said in a press release.
"Our poll looks at how often tweens and younger children use social platforms and how closely parents are monitoring these interactions," she said.
The findings are based on a survey of more than 1,000 parents with at least one child ages 7 to 12, according to Clark and her colleagues.
In deciding which apps are appropriate and safe for their child, nearly three in four parents surveyed reported that they consider if the app has parental controls while more than three in five looked at an app's age rating or whether their children would need it for school, the researchers said
About one-third of those surveyed said their children were taught about safe use of social media apps in school, and these parents are more likely to report that their child uses social media apps, the data showed.
Although two-thirds of respondents said they use at least one parent control feature, one in five indicated they had been unable to find the information they needed to set up parental controls.
Nearly two-thirds of responding parents said they use a parental block on certain sites and about 60% require parent approval for new contacts.
In addition, more than half of respondents indicated that they use privacy settings, daily time limits and passcodes for certain content.
Conversely, a little more than one-third believed parental controls of social media are a "waste of time" because children would be able to find a loophole around them, the data showed.
However, parents should be helping kids navigate the social media world to help them understand the harms of oversharing and interacting with strangers, Clark said.
"If parents are allowing younger children to engage in social media, they should take responsibility for making the child's online environment as safe as possible," she said.
"If parents can't commit to taking an active role in their child's social media use, they should have their child wait to use these apps," she added.
Two-thirds of parents surveyed expressed concerns about their child sharing private information through social media, but less than 60% of them reported using privacy settings that limit the collection of data through children's apps, the data showed.
Half of parents polled also thought their children would be unable to spot an adult user masquerading as a young person on social media, while one-third also are not confident that their children could recognize what information is true versus false on social media apps.
"Parents should be guiding children toward safe use of social media apps through both parental controls and having regular conversations with their kids to teach them online safety rules," Clark said.
"For young kids who are using these apps for the first time, it's especially important for their parents to stay vigilant about content they're engaging with and who they're talking to," she said.