Half of 11-year-olds use social media despite age limits

Social media giants are letting children aged 11 and 12 sign up for profiles – despite a supposed ban on those under 13.

Nearly half of this age group have accounts on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter – as do more than a quarter of ten-year-olds, according to communications watchdog Ofcom.

The revelations last night drew criticism that the companies are ‘turning a blind eye’ to age limit breaches and are not sufficiently protecting children. 

Nearly half of children aged 11 and 12 have accounts on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, according to communications watchdog Ofcom (file photo)

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat all claim that users must be 13 but do not demand proof of age. Users are asked to enter their date of birth – but they can easily lie.

An Ofcom report, published today, found 51 per cent of 12-year-olds have a social media account, along with 46 per cent of 11-year-olds. 

One in ten children aged between 12 and 15 have even shared live videos of themselves on social media. Some platforms, including Instagram Live, allow them to broadcast to strangers.

Yesterday, child safety experts, MPs and charities lambasted the social media giants for leaving children at risk.

John Carr, secretary of the UK Children’s Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety, said: ‘There is a gigantic amount of blind eye turning. 

One in ten children aged between 12 and 15 have even shared live videos of themselves on social media (file photo)

One in ten children aged between 12 and 15 have even shared live videos of themselves on social media (file photo)

They know that around the world are tens of millions of children on their websites, and they choose to do nothing about it because they don’t have to do anything about it.’

Tory MP Damian Collins, chairman of the digital, culture, media and sport select committee, said: ‘If that number of young people are able to set up profiles online, then that suggests that not enough is done to check them.’

Three-year-olds are watching YouTube 

Half of children aged three and four are watching videos on YouTube amid growing alarm over the platform’s disturbing content.

Young children flock to the Google-owned video website to watch cartoons and songs.

But the website also hosts sexualised child content and violent films masquerading as children’s shows.

At this age, half of the children who use the platform access it through the YouTube Kids app. The app is supposed to be safe for very young children as parents can control what they watch.

However, it has emerged that pranksters are targeting children with macabre cartoons that imitate shows such as Peppa Pig but are actually filled with extremely unsuitable content such as torture or sex scenes.

Andy Burrows, the NSPCC’s associate head of child safety online, added: ‘For too long sites like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat have failed to protect children on their platforms and Government urgently needs to step in.’

Campaigners have called on social media companies to put much stricter controls in place.

Anyone with official ID, such as a passport, can already access online security ‘tokens’ to prove their age online – making it possible for social media firms to impose age checks.

However, Ofcom’s report found many parents are happy for young children to go online. More than half of children aged three and four use the web.

Under a European data protection law due to come into force next year, parents will have to give consent before children under a certain age can sign up for a social media profile. This age will be set at 16 in many European countries but is expected to be 13 in Britain.

Yesterday, Mr Burrows called on the House of Lords to ensure stricter controls are put in place when an amendment to the bill is put to a vote next month.

A Facebook spokesman said yesterday: ‘When we become aware that someone is under 13 and they have therefore lied about their age, we remove their account and we use cookies to prevent them from signing up again.’

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk