Facebook Tried to Answer Some Hard Questions About Kids Being Online

Facebook teamed up with advisors in the fields of child development, online safety and children’s media

Facebook shared findings on how kids are using mobile devices and social networks Facebook

Facebook accompanied Monday’s launch of its Messenger Kids application with a look at some of its findings on how kids are using mobile technology and social media.

Public policy director and global head of safety Antigone Davis penned the latest installment of the social network’s Hard Questions series, sharing findings from Facebook’s work with child development experts, educators and parents over the past 18 months.

Findings included:

  • Data from research firm Dubit showed that approximately 93 percent of kids aged six through 12 have access to tablets or smartphones, and 66 percent have their own devices.
  • Facebook teamed up with the National Parent Teacher Association on a study of more than 1,200 U.S. parents of children under 13, and they found that three of five parents said their kids in that age group use messaging apps, social networks or both, and 81 percent of those kids began using social media between the ages of eight and 13.
  • Another Dubit study found that 74 percent of parents of kids aged six through 12 are concerned about their kids interacting online with strangers or people they don’t know.
  • The study with the National PTA found that 63 percent of parents believe social media “provides children with digital skills that are mandatory in society today.”

Davis added that Facebook teamed up with advisors in the fields of child development, online safety and children’s media associated with organizations including the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, Connect Safely, the Center on Media and Child Health, Sesame Workshop and the American Academy of Pediatrics to compile the following set of principles to guide its development of products and features for kids:

  • Putting kids first.
  • Providing a safe space that fosters joy, humor, play and adventure.
  • Enabling kids to mine their own potential by building for empowerment, creativity and expression.
  • Helping kids build a sense of self and community.
  • Recognizing the relationship between parent and child, and that we take our responsibility and their trust in us seriously.

Davis wrote: “Children today are online earlier and earlier. They use family-shared devices—and many, as young as six or seven years old, even have their own. They love to take photos, watch videos, talk to their grandparents and of course they want to be just like their older siblings and use the apps they’re using, too. It can be hard for caregivers to manage. While kids have more ways than ever to learn and benefit from online experiences, three out of four parents say they worry about their kids’ online safety and want more control.”

She added, “But in all of our research, there was one theme that was consistent: Parents want to know they’re in control. They want a level of control over their kids’ digital world that is similar to the level they have in the real world. Just as they want to know whose house their child will be visiting for a playdate, they want to know who their child is connecting with online. And just as they want to say ‘lights out’ at night, they also want to be able to say ‘phones off.’”

david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.