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Social media 'can negatively impact children as they enter secondary school'

11/01/2018 Joanna

Schools and parents need to be doing more to help children maintain a healthy relationship with social media as they enter secondary school.

The Children's Commissioner for England has published a new report, entitled Life in Likes, which has highlighted the potentially negative effects that social media can have on the mental wellbeing of children aged between eight and 12, particularly due to the sudden change in the way children use social networks when they reach secondary school age.

Children aged eight to ten were generally shown to use social media in a playful and creative way, allowing them to expand their horizons and learn more about the world around them. However, once they reach Year 7, they become much more preoccupied with social validation, which alters their mindset when it comes to how they use the internet.

Specifically, it was shown that Year 7 children find social media hard to manage due to their emotional dependence on receiving likes and comments as a form of validation, with many adapting their offline behaviour to fit an online image - which can lead to increased anxiety.

Moreover, the use of platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat can also undermine children's self-image by making them feel inferior to the people they follow, with many youngsters also feeling a persistent pressure to be constantly connected, at the expense of other activities.

As such, Anne Longfield, the Children's Commissioner for England, is calling on schools and parents to prepare children for this shift towards the end of primary school, with compulsory digital literacy and online resilience lessons recommended for Year 6 and 7s to provide them with an understanding of the emotional aspects of social media use.

She said: "While social media clearly provides some great benefits to children, it is also exposing them to significant risks emotionally, particularly as they approach Year 7.
"I am worried that many children are starting secondary school ill-equipped to cope with the sudden demands of social media as their world expands."

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