Social media platforms have fully been in swing for more than a decade, but do they do more harm than good? In this article, we discuss whether social media is a gateway to child abuse, in addition to looking at the benefits social media can offer.
Children of all ages are on social media across various sites, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, BeReal and more. Sadly, the innocence of children and lack of education about the dangers can lead them down a slippery road when accessing social media sites.
Social media does have many advantages for children, particularly when it allows them access to their peers, learning skills and more. But it doesn’t go without saying that, while social media has its benefits, it has considerable negatives, particularly surrounding child abuse, illegal pornography, child predators and more.
To learn more about whether social media is a gateway toward child abuse, keep reading…
Is Social Media Dangerous for Children?
Access to Child Pornography
Unfortunately, children are more prone to sending explicit images on social media sites, in particular on the social media app which started in 2011, called Snapchat. They often believe it is safe due to the option of sending an image which disappears once opened, but it is still possible for the receiver to screenshot the images.
The social media platform Twitter is one site in particular where access to pornographic images of children is sadly easy to do.
Adults Chatting to Children
With children accessing social media comes adults having easy access to communicating with children, which can result in grooming.
These child predators often use fake profiles, with false names and pictures, to catfish children into chatting. Many try to create a safe environment, with innocent messages befriending the child, listening and sympathising with them. But those conversations eventually lead to these predators initiating sexual communication.
A freedom of information request into sexual communication between adults and children via Instagram over an 18 month period showed that 5,000 reports were made. These were, however, only the incidents that were reported, leading to the belief that the numbers could be significantly higher for children who may be too scared to report it to their parents or the police.
These statistics suggest how social media can easily be a gateway to child abuse. Many children don’t understand the impact of talking to adults they don’t know and often the intentions these predators have towards them.
We have spoken about the negative aspects of the internet for children, but it doesn’t mean the positive aspects should be brushed under the rug. Examples of where social media can be beneficial to children include:
Social media allows you to connect with people on a more intense and quicker level that no one has been able to before. This includes talking with friends, family members or even strangers who live across the world. Speaking to those who live abroad can also help with social interactions, even learning about different cultures, languages and more.
While this can obviously concern many parents, with appropriate monitoring and/or education about the risks, you can ensure the conversations your child is having with others online is safe and doesn’t put them at risk of abuse.
More than ever, many jobs are based online and require social media skills which many children often have due to growing up with social media and knowing the ins and outs of it.
The app TikTok has especially assisted many children in learning key skills which can be used for future careers, with video and audio production, public speaking, verbal and written communication skills, and more. Many children create videos for fun, and some of these have blown up, helping to create teens into influencers.
You might wonder how can social media have any educational purposes when it’s people chatting and showing pictures of their life? Well, surprisingly, social media can be a fantastic way to educate young people.
There are many accounts on Instagram, Facebook and particularly TikTok which were created for educational purposes and are dedicated to helping others. From students who enjoy revising, to teachers who want to help change a young person’s life.
For example, if you type “revision tips” into the search bar on TikTok, tens of thousands of videos come up, with students, teachers and professionals sharing what works best for them and last minute revision tips. There are even videos going specifically into topics. For example, if you struggle with trigonometry, we can almost guarantee there will be a helpful video on this platform.
Social Media Has its Advantages and Disadvantages
What we can conclude from this article is that social media has both its benefits and limitations for children. In some aspects, social media can be described as a gateway to child abuse, but this is only where children are not taught the dangers of the internet or how to protect themselves from these child predators.
If you want your children to benefit from the advantages that social media has to offer, such as networking and the skills it can provide them, then it’s important to first educate yourself on social media. Take the time to find out the best way to protect your children from these online predators, whether that is monitoring their activity, educating them on privacy settings and more.
What is your view on children having access to social media? Let us know your thoughts in the comment box below.