More than three quarters of British children aged between 10 and 12 are ignoring age limits to set up their own social media accounts, putting them at risk of online bullying and abuse, a survey has found.
Out of around 1,000 children and teenagers between 10 and 18 interviewed, more than one in five said they had been bullied online but still found social media to be an important part of everyday life.
A quarter of 16 to 18-year-olds admitted using networks including Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter for “unkind” or “rude” posts directed at other people.
Thirteen is the minimum age for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, Reddit and several other sites, while WhatsApp sets the bar at 16 and Vine is 17.
But most of the sites rely on users to put in their real date of birth when setting up an account, allowing children to simply change the year to register.
Facebook deletes any accounts belonging to under-13s when flagged, while Instagram also encourages people to report underage accounts or “anything that may make them feel uncomfortable”.
A separate study commissioned by the organisers of Safer Internet Day found a quarter of teenagers received online abuse last year, being targeted because of their gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, disability or transgender identity.
Will Gardner, chief executive of the charity Childnet and director of the UK Safer Internet Centre, which published the study, said: “It is a wake-up call for all of us to play our part in helping create a better internet for all, to ensure that everyone can benefit from the opportunities that technology provides for building mutual respect and dialogue, facilitating rights, and empowering everyone to be able to express themselves and be themselves online - whoever they are.”
UK news in pictures
UK news in pictures
1/20 26 June 2017
A festival-goer sleeps outside their tent at the end of the Glastonbury Festival of Music and Performing Arts on Worthy Farm near the village of Pilton in Somerset, South West England
2/20 26 June 2017
Canadian Captain Megan Couto (C) leading out troops of the Second Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry from Wellington Barracks heading for the Changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace in central London. Media reports state that Megan Couto, will be at the head of some 40 Canadian soldiers along with the Royal Canadian Artillery Band at the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace becoming the first female soldier in history to become Captain of the Guard. Canadian soldiers are serving as the Queen's Guard as sentries at Buckingham Palace, St. James's Palace, the Tower of London and Windsor Castle until 03 July 2017. Queen Elizabeth II invited Canada to send troops take part in the ceremonial duties in 2017 marking 150 years since Canadian Confederation
3/20 26 June 2017
Residents leave their home on the Taplow Block on the Chalcots Estate on June 26, 2017 in London, England. Residents of the Chalcots Estate have been urged to leave their homes due to fire safety fears in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy. Four of the five Chalcots Estate towers in Camden, North London, are being evacuated after they were found to have similar cladding to that on Grenfell, attributed to contributing to the rapid spread of the blaze last week that killed at least 79 people
4/20 25 June 2017
Police officers on Romford Road in Forest Gate, east London, as people protest over the death of Edir Frederico Da Costa, who died on June 21 six days after he was stopped in a car by Metropolitan Police officers in Woodcocks, Beckton, in Newham, east London
5/20 24 June 2017
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn addresses revellers from the Pyramid Stage at Worthy Farm in Somerset during the Glastonbury Festival
6/20 23 June 2017
British Prime Minister Theresa May addresses a news conference at the EU summit in Brussels, Belgium, June 23, 2017
7/20 22 June 2017
Cosplay fans (L-R) George Massingham, Abbey Forbes and Karolina Goralik travel by tube dressed in Harry Potter themed costumes, after a visit to one the literary franchise's movie filming locations at Leadenhall Market in London, Britain
8/20 22 June 2017
Racegoers cheer on their horse on Ladies Day at the Royal Ascot horse racing meet, in Ascot, west of London
9/20 21 June 2017
A reveller walks among the tipi tents at the Glastonbury Festival of Music and Performing Arts on Worthy Farm near the village of Pilton in Somerset, South West England
10/20 20 June 2017
A police officer lays some flowers passed over by a member of the public, close to Finsbury Park Mosque in north London, after one man died and eight people were taken to hospital and a person arrested after a rental van struck pedestrian
The Borough Market bell is seen in Borough Market in central London following its re-opening after the June 3 terror attack
Two women embrace in Borough Market, which officially re-opens today following the recent attack, in central London
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan attends the re-opening of Borough market in central London following the June 3 terror attack
People walk through Borough Market in central London following its re-opening after the June 3 terror attack
News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch, with one of his daughters, visit Borough Market, which officially re-opened today following the recent attack
A woman reacts in front of a wall of messages in Borough Market, which officially re-opened today following the recent attack, in central London
Vivenne Westwood walks the runway at the Vivenne Westwood show during the London Fashion Week Men's June 2017 collections
Millwall fan and London Bridge hero Roy Larner on 'Good Morning Britain'
Richard Arnold, Roy Larner, Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid on 'Good Morning Britain'
20/20 11 June 2017
England players celebrate after defeating Venezuela 1-0 to win the final of the FIFA U-20 World Cup Korea 2017 at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, South Korea
The day is supported by technology firms and the Government to assess how children are using the internet and “promote the safe, responsible and positive use of digital technology”.
Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, said her department was working to improve safeguards but that parents and education also have a vital role to play.
“We are working hard to make the web a safer place for children but we can't do it alone and parents have a vital role to play in educating young people,” she added.
Additional reporting by PA
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- internet safety
- Safer Internet Day
- Social networking
- Online abuse