RHUL researcher Dr Beatrice Hayes together with Prof Ravinder Barn, Dr Alana James, and Prof Dawn Watling investigated what children, parents, and teachers think about children's social media use.
Photo by McKaela Taylor on Unsplash
Despite the age restrictions of social networking sites (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat) typically comprising 13 years, younger children are creating profiles and interacting online. We often hear about the dangers of such use via the media and, indeed, children’s use of social networking sites presents many risks. However, there are also many benefits such as strengthen pre-existing friendships online, making new friends and enhancing self-esteem via positive online feedback. We also know that parents and teachers play an important role in children’s lives and are very influential in how children behave online as well as how they perceive the risks and benefits of social networking site use. To explore this, we interviewed 13 parents, 14 teachers and 15 children across the United Kingdom to find out what they perceived the risks and benefits of social networking site use to be.
We discovered that parents’ and teachers’ perceptions of social networking site use shaped children’s own perceptions and subsequently how they manage their online behaviour. In particular, despite parents and teachers outlining the benefits of strengthening relationships with friends and family online, all of our adult participants identified stranger danger as a risk of children’s social networking site use. Children echoed this perception and were keen to explain how they protected themselves from strangers online. However, children were less knowledgeable about the more day-to-day risks, such as falling out with friends or cyberbullying. Importantly, our paper calls for a more balanced approach to educating children about the online risks and benefits. Of course, children require protection from strangers online, however, children require a stronger understanding of the more “realistic” online risks as well as the many social benefits available to them. We argue that a balanced approach to educating children about their social networking site use is important for empowering children within a digital world.
Read the full article in the British Journal of Educational Psychology: https://doi.org/10.1111/bjep.12452