Parents unaware of social media age restrictions

In Singapore, 85 per cent of children polled have social media accounts.
In Singapore, 85 per cent of children polled have social media accounts.TNP FILE PHOTO

SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER)- Mrs Kathleen Ho set up a Facebook account for her daughter when the girl was seven.

Mrs Ho uses it to share pictures with her daughter, who is now 11, from her own Facebook account.

"My daughter just uses Facebook to play games and browse. She has friends on her Facebook account but there is no interaction," she said.

The administrative manager was not aware what the minimum age requirement was for social media accounts.

Even though the age requirement may not be strictly enforced, sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Kik and Snapchat require users to be at least 13 years old before they can sign up for an account.

Mrs Ho, 46, whose two other children are aged two and 18, thought the minimum age was 16. 

Last week, The New Paper polled 20 parents with at least one child aged between five and 12. Half had children with social media accounts.

Fourteen parents did not know the minimum age requirement for social media accounts.

Ms Jennifer Tan, 49, a mother of three, thought the minimum age was 18.

When told it was 13, the freelance producer and writer, whose 12-year-old daughter has only a "dumb phone" and no social media account, said: "It's a useless minimum age because so many kids just lie about it."

 
 

If that is true, it can be worrying. Last Tuesday, TNP reported that most Singapore children aged eight to 12 are active on social media.

Commissioned by international think-tank DQ Institute, the 2018 DQ Impact Report polled about 38,000 children in the age group in 29 countries.

In Singapore, 85 per cent of the children polled have social media accounts.

More worrying, 54 per cent of them were exposed to at least one cyber risk, with 43 per cent of them being victims of cyber bullying, 16 per cent involved in online sexual behaviours, and 12 per cent having chatted online with strangers and meeting them.

Parents like Mrs Ho, however, said they are aware of the dangers social media pose to their children.

She said of her daughter: "I monitor her usage, and I educate her. It is important to constantly remind her of dangers online."

Agreeing, Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist in private practice, said: "Parents who choose to create accounts for their children and post photos of them have to be mindful of the risks they expose them to."

Dr Lim said people should not blame children for wanting to have social media accounts as these platforms have become a popular part of communication.

"Nowadays, a child who wants to communicate with their friends will most probably choose to do so over social media," he said.

Assistant Professor of Health and Social Sciences at the Singapore Institute of Technology Jiow Hee Jhee, a member of the Media Literacy Council, said it is wise for parents to monitor their children's media usage, as they largely control the child's ownership of smart devices.

When it comes to supervision, communication is key, he added.

Prof Jiow said: "Set ground rules, but ensure that the child understands your decisions."