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Ofcom says children aged 5-11 use social media platforms such as TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram despite the 13-year age limit


Children as young as five are using social media apps designed for kids twice their age.

An annual report on how adults and children in the UK use media such as TV and the internet, warns of an emerging generation of ‘TikTot’ of small children who use social media platforms designed for them. teenagers and adults.

The study by media watchdog Ofcom found that despite the minimum age for using social media sites, which is 13 for most platforms, many parents allowed their young offspring to have social media profiles, although these accounts may be private or “locked”. down’.

Children allowed to use apps like TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram

One-third of parents the researchers spoke to with children between the ages of five and seven, and two-thirds of parents of children between the ages of eight and 11, said their children regularly use sites with a restriction of higher age – some users admitting to using fake birthdates to circumvent age limits.

Older children, Ofcom says, were most likely to have an Instagram profile while children under 11 were more likely to be on TikTok and YouTube.

Social media platforms, including Instagram and TikTok, have a number of age verification processes, while any account or content belonging to those who appear underage may be removed by company moderators.

Ofcom research examines how adults and children consume media
Ofcom research examines how adults and children consume media

But alongside the accounts that parents know their children have, there are a growing number of secret profiles, Ofcom says, that young people are using to “hide aspects of their lives online”.

The report says two-thirds of 8-11 year olds had multiple accounts or profiles, with almost half admitting to having an account specifically for their family.

The recently published Online Safety Bill will order sites carrying material not suitable for children to carry out strict age checks on users trying to access their content.

Online Safety Bill will do more to protect children from harmful content
Online Safety Bill will do more to protect children from harmful content

But today’s report suggests that some children are already able to circumvent technology to use websites they know their parents wouldn’t allow.

Ofcom researchers were concerned at the small number of children who admitted to using private browsing modes or deleting their browsing history to evade security checks from parents or caregivers, with one in 20 saying they had also bypassed parental controls at home in order to be able to use certain applications. or visit certain sites that they were otherwise not permitted to use.

The report concludes: “Parents take an active role in monitoring and mediating their children’s online lives, but this diminishes with age. Although parents are generally confident that they know enough to keep their child safe, a significant minority of parents simply don’t know what to think about the internet – for example, whether the risks of their child using it outweigh the benefits.

“The Online Safety Bill will impose new user due diligence obligations on technology companies, which Ofcom will enforce. When we regulate online safety, we will require companies to assess the risks taking into account from the user’s perspective and explain what they are doing to protect children. We will hold companies accountable for how they ensure a safe experience for children.”

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