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At what age should you let your children use social media?

PUBLISHED: 11:37 15 January 2019

Many social media apps are accessible to anyone who can claim they are older than 13 years of age Picture: YUI MOK

Many social media apps are accessible to anyone who can claim they are older than 13 years of age Picture: YUI MOK

PA Wire/PA Images

It is a tough question for many parents - at what age do you allow your children to experience to joys and sometimes the perils of the likes of Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter?

Matt Hancock, Conservative MP for West Suffolk Picture: HOUSE OF COMMONSMatt Hancock, Conservative MP for West Suffolk Picture: HOUSE OF COMMONS

A debate on the issue has today been opened up by West Suffolk MP and health secretary Matt Hancock, who said that he does not allow his two sons and one daughter to use social media.

So much of our communication these days is online and many people share some of their happiest and most personal moments on their Facebook and Twitter feeds.

It can be a great place to keep in contact with friends and share photos of great holidays, big life moments or even what you ate for dinner.

But it comes with its downsides too - many fear that spending too much time on social media is to the detriment of quality, face-to-face interaction while many parents are rightly concerned about online trolls and abuse.

Criminals are also reported to mine Facebook profiles for personal information so they can try and gain access to bank accounts or steal identities, resulting in warnings for people to take care online.

Many social media platforms already require users to be at least 13.

Mr Hancock, who was previously digital minister, said: “Social media companies say their products shouldn’t be used by under-13s and it infuriates me that they make it very easy for children to use them and don’t do anything to stop them, leaving it all down to parents.”

He worries about the pressures on young women too, saying: “Girls are too often in despair looking at pictures they see online and thinking: ‘Why don’t I look like that?’, even though many of these pictures are staged - it’s not just somebody on a normal day in their normal setting.”

He has asked the chief medical officer for the government, Professor Dame Sally Davies, to draw up new guidance for children on using social media.

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