“Hi cuz wot u up to #crazy”. I had to read it three times, check the user who had sent me such a message, check their followers and cross-reference completely until I was certain that this day had arrived. I had just been tweeted by my 10 year old cousin. Obviously, I couldn’t believe it and was instantly outraged. Yet but it raised numerous questions about the generation that was to follow me: are they really ready to be released upon the world of social media at such a young age? Is this what advancements in technology has led us to?
Social media websites have of course imposed their own boundaries: you must be 13 to set up a Facebook page, and twitter offers the option of age-screening for brands, where you must insert your age before being allowed to follow certain pages. However, the ‘age restrictions’ found on Facebook and numerous other mediums such as tumblr often only consists of filling in your date of birth: I’m almost certain that most twelve year olds are capable and more than willing to merely change their year of birth by a year in order to obtain access.
But what effect can these social media websites have upon young children? Well, take twitter for example, you are never more than a few clicks away from naked pictures, abusive comments and inappropriate behaviour galore. Facebook also has seen a recent inundation of videos depicting despicable acts, and this is without even beginning to discuss the implications of followers/friends who are not who they say they are and the ever-present risk of interaction with pedophiles.
Personally, I feel that 13 is a reasonable age to impose upon such websites. By the time British children reach 13, they will have completed their first year of secondary school and will have begun to form some sort of understanding of the world. It’s important that children are given the freedom to explore the internet nowadays, and we will always hear that you must ‘learn from your own mistakes’ and ‘you can’t keep them wrapped up in cotton wool’. However, whether these social websites will ever be able to, or indeed want to pay for the software, to prevent those under the age of 13 from using such websites is a different case altogether.