Shocking new figures reveal half of adults in Nottinghamshire are oblivious to age restrictions on social media sites.
A study by the NSPCC has shown that half of adults are unaware that social media sites like Facebook require users to be aged 13 and over. Furthermore, more than one in five think there are no age requirements at all.
The charity is now urging social media companies to make age restrictions much clearer on sign-up pages and is offering advice to families to help keep children safe online.
Social media can provide important support networks for young people. But the sites can also be a dangerous place for younger children, potentially exposing them to bullying, inappropriate content or grooming.
Calls to the NSPCC’s Childline service calls show that children under the age of 13 are using social networks and are in some cases having negative experiences online.
One 11-year-old caller told counsellors: “I’m really upset - the other day my friend showed me some horrible pictures that people were posting on Instagram of me. Some people at school have taken pictures of me and put silly tags on the pictures and put funny faces over mine. I’ve been bullied before and now it’s on Instagram and I can’t seem get away from it and everyone else can see it too.”
A 12-year-old girl who contacted Childline said: “I was playing dares with a boy from my school then he dared me to send nudes and I did. I feel ashamed and embarrassed and I don’t know why I did it. Now I have fallen out with him he has sent the photo to everyone all over Instagram and Facebook and Snapchat and I keep getting abuse at school and online saying I’m rotten and a slag.”
Ally Sultana, the NSPCC’s Midlands campaigns manager, said: “We can all do our bit to keep children safe online, and ensure their experience of social media is a positive one.
“Age restrictions need to reflect the content and conduct possible on each site and be crystal clear to parents and their younger users. And platforms need to work harder to protect children and young people, building in child safety to the design of each site.”
Parents seeking face-to-face advice about how to best protect their children online can make an appointment with the NSPCC’s O2 gurus in their nearest store or can call the O2 NSPCC Online Safety Helpline on 0808 800 5002. Parents don’t need to be an O2 customer to use it.