Childline is still getting calls from children as young as 11 and 12 who have been bullied on sites, some even sharing nude images of themselves
Childline is still getting calls from children as young as 11 and 12 who have been bullied on social media sites and even some who have shared nude images despite site owners attempts to stop children under the age of 13 creating profiles.
NSPCC, the charity which operates Childline, is 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.
In a recent survey it found that 50% of adults in Scotland are oblivious to whether their children are old enough to be using social networks like Facebook and Snapchat.
Shockingly almost 20% thought there were no age requirements at all.
Although acknowledging that social media can provide important support networks for young people, the sites can also be a dangerous place for younger children, potentially exposing them to bullying, inappropriate content or grooming the charity says.
Calls to its Childline service show that some children are 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 to get away from it and everyone else can see it too.”
And 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.”
As well as calling for social media site owners to make restrictions clearer, the NSPCC is also urging parents to refer to its Net Aware service to get practical tips such as how to switch on parental controls, or manage privacy settings
Matt Forde, NSPCC Scotland national head, 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 can be proactive by having conversations with their children about online safety as soon as they start using the internet.”