Third of children have adult social media accounts according to Ofcom

The regulator has released a full report on the subject

A report from broadcasting regulator Ofcom has revealed that one third of children have a false age of 18 or over on social media.

A third of children aged between eight and 17 with a social media profile have an adult user age after signing up with a false date of birth, according to new research commissioned by Ofcom.

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According to Yonder Consulting, “the majority of children aged between eight and 17 (77 per cent) who use social media now have their own profile on at least one of the large platforms. And despite most platforms having a minimum age of 13, the research suggests that six in 10 (60 per cent) children aged eight to 12 who use these platforms are signed up with their own profile.”

Among this underage group (eight to 12s), up to half had set up at least one of their profiles themselves, while up to two-thirds had help from a parent or guardian.

The findings of a second, broader study into the risk factors that may lead children to harm online has also been published.

Commissioned by Ofcom and carried out by Revealing Reality, the study found that providing a false age was only one of many potential triggers.

A range of risk factors were identified which potentially made children more vulnerable to online harm, especially when these factors appear to coincide or frequently co-occur with the harm experienced. These included:

  • a child’s pre-existing vulnerabilities such as any special educational needs or disabilities (SEND), existing mental health conditions and social isolation;
  • offline circumstances such as bullying or peer pressure, feelings such as low self-esteem or poor body image;
  • design features of platforms which either encouraged and enabled children to build large networks of people – often that they didn’t know; or exposed them to content and connections they hadn’t proactively sought out; and
  • exposure to personally relevant, targeted, or peer-produced content, and material that was appealing as it was perceived as a solution to a problem or insecurity.
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