Social media has been an invaluable tool for keeping us all connected during the lockdown period; especially children, many of whom have been staying home from school and thus deprived of the opportunity to develop vital social skills. However, new figures procured by the NSPCC
suggest that increased social media use by children is also leading to a rise in cases of online grooming.
More children than ever are using social media at a younger age: according to an Ofcom report from February 2020, around one in five children aged 8-11 has a social media profile, despite the fact that most social networks require users to be at least 13. However, the same report suggests that relatively few parents are aware of these age requirements - only 27% know that Facebook users must be 13 or older, while only 5% know that WhatsApp has an age limit of 16.
Parents are in a tricky situation. Peer pressure is a powerful force that affects children and adults alike, and it can be nearly impossible to find the right balance between exerting parental control and allowing children to follow their peers into the digital landscape. Age limits can be a useful guide, but every child develops differently and there is no right answer when it comes to deciding whether yours is ready for social media.
However, we at Natterhub believe the solution is not to wrap our children in the digital equivalent of cotton wool. Discussing issues like online grooming frankly and openly - both at home and school - means children will feel more comfortable coming to you with a problem: which is crucial as many predators online work to separate children from the trusted adults in their lives.
Crucially, Natterhub provides a safe place that mimics existing social networks and presents these concepts in an engaging, child-focused way. Our ‘Think It’ lessons teach children to recognise when something doesn’t feel right and encourage them to seek out help from those they trust, while ‘Secure It’ highlights the importance of keeping certain things to ourselves when we surf.
It can be easy to focus on the scary aspects of the internet, but children growing up today also have unparalleled access to information that can help them develop emotionally and intellectually. By working with primary schools from Year 1 to Year 6, we can ensure that children don’t just survive in the digital world, but thrive in it.