“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”Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England
This week, the Children’s Commissioner published the Life in ‘likes’ report into the impact of social media on children before they reach their teenage years, and makes a series of recommendations for the future.
The report follows a review of evidence by the Education Policy Institute on young people’s experience of using social media and their emotional and mental wellbeing last year. The review found that further research is needed into the way that young people develop social relationships in the digital world and called on the government to promote the development of their resilience and mental health, rather than focusing just on safeguarding.
The ‘Life in likes’ report has been informed by conversations in focus groups with 32 children aged 8-12. Findings cover three key areas of social media usage:
- children’s use of social media apps and staying safe online
- the influence of family and friends’ use of social media on children
- growing up on social media and the impact of peer approval
The report finds that children are particularly conscious about how they use social media at the time they move from primary to secondary school, when identity and peer approval become more important. Around this transition to secondary school, the report explains that children need support to develop greater digital literacy and resilience, and makes a series of recommendations toward this:
- introduce compulsory digital literacy and online resilience lessons for those in years six and seven, so that they can learn about the emotional side of social media
- develop guidance for parents to advise them on how to protect their children’s online safety and to support them to make informed decisions about social media usage
- improve teachers’ knowledge about the impact of social media on children’s wellbeing and encourage peer to peer learning among children in digital literacy lessons
To social media companies:
- recognise the needs of children under thirteen who are using their platforms and do more to address underage use of social media accounts through closer and more rigorous moderation
Join the conversation on Twitter using #lifeinlikes and view the Children’s Commissioner’s Digital 5 A Day campaign, based on NHS England’s Five steps to better mental wellbeing, which provides practical steps to help families negotiate balanced use of digital devices and social media.