Earlier this month, the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health released a report on children’s relationships with social media apps. The report, titled “Sharing too soon? Children and social media apps,” sampled 1,030 parents of children aged 7-12 about their children’s social media use.
According to the poll, 49% of parents reported that their 10-12 year old children used social media apps in the past six months, while this number dropped to 32% for parents of children aged 7-9.
Sarah Clark, the poll’s organizer and faculty member in the Michigan Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics, said she wanted to conduct the poll to better understand how children — not just teenagers — are using social media.
“There has been a lot of attention around social media and its impact on teenagers,” Clark said. “But just in talking amongst our poll team, we had family and friends who had much younger kids also using social media. So we thought we have some uncovered territory here.”
Clark said she hoped the poll raises awareness about parental control features on social media platforms and helps parents become more involved in their children’s media use.
“If you’re going to let kids this young be on social media, you have to do your job of helping them sort all that out,” Clark said.
Clark also said the poll looked into how schools are responding to the increased use of social media among children. One in three parents said their child learned about safety practices for social media use in school, a finding that surprised and encouraged Clark.
“Some parents are going to be great at this,” Clark said.“Some parents are going to be lost. And if schools could be a partner in that, I think that would be really helpful.”
LSA senior Jessica Pelton, who is a parent herself, said she thinks children’s use of technology is at an all-time high given increases in accessibility. Pelton shared her thoughts on how schools can improve her child’s relationship with social media.
“I think the relationship that kids have with the technology has skyrocketed over the past two years,” Pelton said. “It creates this complicated balance of technology. Now do we only use it for schooling, or are they allowed to use it for fun in any way?”
Pelton mentioned that she allows her 8-year-old daughter to use Facebook Messenger Kids to talk to her long-distance friend, as well as Pelton’s Snapchat to connect with her cousin.
The poll also showed that the top four concerns parents had with social media include: children sharing private information without realizing it; encountering sexual predators; seeing adult images and videos and not being able to tell what information is true or false.
Pelton related to these findings, saying she did not think most children are developmentally prepared for the kinds of decisions they will need to make on social media.
“I would say the number one concern is the exposure to dangerous content, violent content, sexual content and stuff that is really made for adults only,” Pelton said.
While she has not yet permitted her children to use social media, Social Work graduate student Julia Hettich expressed similar concerns and emphasized the effect social media can have on young users’ mental health.
“I think some of it is a basic internet fear … and kids not knowing basic internet safety,” Hettich said. “And the ways that social media affects self-esteem in the number of likes you get, and how cute your outfit is … I think it preys on these fears and insecurities that preteens and teenagers’ developing brains already have”.
Daily News Contributor Carly Brechner can be reached at email@example.com.