Last updated: 13.09.17

Children spending more time on social media, report claims

In a recent report by Ofcom it was revealed that children now spend more time on social media and digital devices like phones, tablets and laptops than they do watching TV.

Children are spending more time on social media than they ever have done before, surpassing watching TV - which was once their favourite media pastime - it has been reported.

According to a recent report by Ofcom, three to four year-olds spend roughly 8.5 hours a week online. In addition to this, when it came to 12 to 15-year-olds, the number of hours spent on social media soared to over 20.

In response to this, the Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield called on parents to stop their children from using social media, which she claims is as addictive as “junk food”. She also scolded the social media platforms themselves for trying to draw children into spending even more time glued to their tablets and smartphones.

She warned that “children are in danger of seeing social media like sweeties, and online time like junk food.”

As an example, Ms Longfield mentioned Snapchat and its ‘Snapstreak’ feature. Here, a streak is created when two users share photos over three consecutive days. However if they miss a day, the streak is then lost.

She told the Observer: “You find children saying they have 30 people they have to do every day and if they don’t, they drop the streak, and everyone will see.

“There are children who say they can’t not be online, and I think that’s really worrying.”

This warning comes after the government’s confirmation of new laws in the Data Protection Bill, aimed at giving users a greater right to be ‘forgotten’ online. It will mean that people are able to ask social media platforms to delete information they posted in their childhood or just in the past.

The right to be forgotten measure is part of the upcoming European General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). However, the UK law will extend this by requiring that social media companies delete all of a person's data which accumulated before they reached the age of 18 - if they ask to be forgotten.

It will also require people to explicitly give consent for their information to be collected online, rather than social media companies - or businesses and organisations in general - relying on pre-selected tick boxes.

The Bill was announced in the Queen’s Speech and will be introduced to parliament this month.

As reported in the Mirror, Digital Minister Matt Hancock commented: “Our measures are designed to support businesses in their use of data, and give consumers the confidence that their data is protected and those who misuse it will be held to account.”


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