Children as young as four are using Instagram and Snapchat despite the social media platforms stating that only children 13 and over can sign up. 

New research on children’s online behaviours has found that of those engaging with social media, four to six-year-olds are spending on average, 36 minutes a day on Instagram .

The research conducted by Qustodio , a global leader in digital safety and wellbeing for families, also found that the top games played by this age group include Roblox, Minecraft, Steam, Defense of the Ancients 2 and Clash Royale - all of which, according to PEGI, are not age appropriate.

 

The study of 16,000 children in the UK also revealed that the average time spent by those aged seven to nine, who played Fortnite, was nearly two hours (119 minutes) a day on that single game. Fortnite is rated age is 12+ for its frequent violence.

We put some of these statistics to our Liverpool ECHO Family facebook group .

Mum Helen Wynne-Jones from New Ferry, Wirral, said: "I work in IT so I'm very conscious of the dangers of social media.

"There's no way I'd let my four-year-old into a site like Instagram. He's allowed Netflix, CBeebies, Prime and a few (mostly educational) games.

"That’s usually less than 15 mins a day, and only in the company of an adult. Some parents have said I'm too strict, but so be it if he's a kid that understands tech and can manage his use of it well."

Another mum Hayley Marsland from Stoneycroft said that she's trying to keep her son away from devices.

She said: "My little boy is obsessed with trucks and toys though and can barely use an iPad/iPhone. I want to keep it that way as long as possible. I have read some scary things about the radiation from iPads and WiFi too."

With children having increasingly more access to screens and smart phones, parents are having to find ways of limiting screen time.

With children having increasingly more access to screens and smart phones, it's hard for parents to stay in control. Holistic child psychologist Dr Nicole Beurkens has put together some top tips for encouraging digital wellbeing and keeping children safe online.

Finally mum-of two Rachael Cunningham from Lydiate hides the remote to her smart TV.

She said: "We've just changed to a smart telly and now my four-year-old gets YouTube at a touch of the remote which is messing with our limited screen time for her.

"We see a change in mood in her when she has screen time, we used to limit it to when I needed a bit of time for a shower or something but it's become more difficult since the smart TVs have it available so easy.

"I hide the remote most days and get the colouring or playdoh out while she is so little. There's no way she will be on social media for a long time though."

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The great parenting debates

What else did the research find?

Other key statistics from the research include: 

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What the experts say

Georgie Powell, head of digital wellness at Qustodio, the company who carried out the research, said: "We are still trying to understand the full impact that inappropriate content can have on children, but some research points towards increases in violent behaviour and mental health issues.

"Whether it’s viewing inappropriate or upsetting content on social media or through the games that children are playing, parents should be vigilant about what their children are exposed to. 

"Children and parents need educating about the positive and negative impacts of tech use, and why it's so important to manage the balance of offline and online life.

"This is why we recommend having open and honest conversations with children about how they take advantage of the benefits the online world has to offer, whilst finding healthy approaches to tech use.”

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Do you allow your young children to use social media or gaming apps?

Lauren Seager-Smith, CEO at Kidscape , one of the leading anti-bullying advice charities, added: "It is vital that as parents and carers we are aware of what our children are accessing online - either on their own devices, or through the phones and tablets of friends and family.

"Children are very tech-savvy and even as young children may be drawn to apps, sites and games that you'd associate with a much older age group - particularly if they have older siblings. 

"It's never too soon or too late to set appropriate parental controls, be clear on what you want them to access when they are with you - or with others, and let them know that you care about this area of your life as much as any other, and will take action to keep them safe."

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