The majority of adults in Wales are oblivious to guidelines around when children are considered old enough to be using social networks like Facebook and Snapchat, new figures suggest.
The NSPCC 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.
A survey of adults carried out for the NSPCC found that 54 per cent of those surveyed in Wales were unaware that social media sites like Facebook require users to be 13 and over. And shockingly one in five thought there were no age requirements at all.
Social media can provide important support networks for young people. But the sites can also be a dangerous place for younger children, potentially exposing them to bullying, inappropriate content or grooming.
Calls to the NSPCC’s Childline service calls show that children under the age of 13 are using social networks and are in some cases having negative experiences online.
Des Mannion, Head of NSPCC Cymru/Wales, 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. The NSPCC’s Net Aware service can give practical tips such as how to switch on parental controls, or manage privacy settings.
The Net Aware website, run in partnership with O2, offers parents useful information about each social network, including the age guidance for users.
The service, at www.net-aware.org.uk works with over 500 parents and carers, and 1,725 young people to review social networks, apps and games that children use.
Parents seeking face-to-face advice about how to best protect their children online can make an appointment with the NSPCC’s O2 gurus in their nearest store or can call the O2 NSPCC Online Safety Helpline on 0808 800 5002.