More parents are allowing their preteens access to social media sites like Facebook, despite growing concerns of privacy issues and cyber-bulling.
According to a study by Liberty Mutual’s Responsibility Project, the number of 10- to 12-year-olds with a Facebook or MySpace account has doubled last year, with 11 percent of parents admitting to using social media sites on behalf of their children.
The study acknowledges that younger children are flocking to social media sites, despite age restrictions, upping the ante on parents to safeguard their children’s online activity through greater involvement.
Facebook is not open for children under 13, although the site doesn’t have a way to verify users’ ages, leading to bogus profiles set up by school children to taunt or cyber bully others while shielded behind Facebook’s anonymous walls.
Similar studies show that Facebook use is linked with poor grades at school, with student’s fixations on the site seen as a distraction in doing their homework.
In addition, the so-called “Facebook depression” has also taken its toll on younger age groups. Children who feel difficulty in integrating into online social networking are said to be affected with depression-like symptoms such as mood swings and changing sleeping patterns.
Despite these hazards, parents allowing their children to join social media sites may simply be acknowledging the growing role Facebook plays in modern life. But it also means parents must be ever more vigilant against new behaviors on those sites.
The findings show that parents are becoming more aware of how their children spend their time online, thus increasing the level of interest in security. The study suggests parents guide their children in their online activities to help better utilize social media.
Most parents admitted it was their responsibility to resolve cyber-bullying by children, with 63 percent saying teachers and schools should be doing more to stop it. With more parents safeguarding their children’s online activity, efforts to combat online misuse and bullying by peers might be better realized.
The most popular of the social networking sites, Facebook, has over 600 million active users worldwide, followed by LinkedIn, Twitter and MySpace.