Parental Social Media Concern Continues to Grow, Survey Reveals

Becky Banham
By Becky Banham,
updated on Mar 12, 2020

Parental Social Media Concern Continues to Grow, Survey Reveals

Nine in 10 parents (89%) fear for their child’s safety online, specifically on social media apps, according to a recent survey

Parental worry over online safety is nothing new; social media is at the forefront of many parents’ concerns due to the dangers that are frequently reported. Particularly when new platforms are released or become increasingly popular over a short period, this can be worrying.

In a recent survey, asked parents of under-17s how they feel about their child using social media. The survey of 1,862 parents found that music-based app TikTok worries parents the most, with 84% concerned about their child’s habits on the platform. 92% of parents believe that TikTok needs to do more to make the app safer for children, as only 33% believe their child is safe using the platform.

Other apps that worry parents include Instagram (81%), YouTube (55%) and Snapchat (54%).

A staggering 89% of parents fear for their child’s safety online, however, 67% still let their child take their phone to bed, where they are unsupervised and unmonitored. Of the parents surveyed, 39% find it difficult to moderate their child’s screen time and almost one in four don’t monitor their social media usage at all.

Interestingly, 24% are unsure if their child’s social media set to private, while only 64% of parents are certain that their child has a locked/private account.

The survey asked parents to rank their biggest fears with their child posting online content. The results are as follows:  

  1. Predators
  2. Sexual exploitation/explicit content
  3. Cyberbullying
  4. Dangerous viral challenges
  5. Dangerous propaganda
  6. Virtual coin payment
  7. Animal abuse

Analysis of Google’s search trends reveals that searches for ‘TikTok safe’ are three times higher than they were in June 2019, demonstrating that safety concerns have skyrocketed. Over time it is evident that parents fear more about TikTok safety than Snapchat; searches regarding TikTok’s safety have overtaken Snapchat and is on the way to passing Twitter.

Google Trends data: Worldwide web searches from March 2019 to March 2020
Google Trends data: Worldwide web searches from March 2019 to March 2020

Sam Barnard, the parent of an 8-year-old girl, shares her experiences with TikTok, and social media in general:

“So many of my child’s friends have their own phones, and we have noticed a growing interest in TikTok. From the moment students meet their parents at the school gates at 15:15, they’re handed back their phone. By 15:20 they’re already updating their feeds and scrolling through social media.

“We looked at some of my child’s peers’ TikTok accounts, and we were shocked, to say the least. The video that really stood out to me was one classmate who posted a video of her walking home, entering her house and then proceeded to do a house tour, all while showing her face, door number and street.

“It really worries me as I am aware of the dangers social media possesses among children - especially among 8 and 9-year-olds.”

Can we use social media for good?

Safety is, of course, a warranted and understandable concern of many parents. If you’re feeling worried about your child’s use of social media, one way to ease anxiety is to explore the topic of online safety with them.

Counselling Directory has some great resources to help with this:

But it’s not all doom and gloom where social media is concerned. There are people trying to prove that we can use these platforms for good - to help improve our mental health, even.

One example is Counselling Directory member Dr Julie Smith. Not everybody has access to a psychologist's therapy room for support with mental health, so Dr Smith is offering help to people via TikTok. She hopes that, by sharing guidance, she can help people to help themselves.

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