7 social media concerns parents worry about most have been revealed - but here's how you can keep your kids safe

 A girl on her phone while lying in bed.
A girl on her phone while lying in bed.

If your child uses social media, you might be worried about the effects of too much screen time. You might also wonder if social media is bad for kids.

Whether your child goes online for a few minutes or spends hours on end scrolling and chatting to friends, you'll be surprised at how long it takes for children to come across ‘unsafe, age-restricted and illegal content’. According to a survey carried out by Virgin Media O2 and Internet Matters, around 42 per cent of British parents are clueless about whether their children are using anonymous chat sites, where they can live video chat with anyone as well as view and be sent unsolicited images and videos from strangers - so there's an even greater risk of kids being exposed to explicit sexual content.

The survey also revealed that almost a quarter (24 per cent) of parents admit they are not as aware as they would like to be about how their children are spending their time online. And while it's only natural to take your eye off the parenting ball for a bit - it's impossible to know everything about your child, especially once they reach school age - when it comes to their safety, it's important to know about the hidden dangers of recognisable social media sites like YouTube, WhatsApp, TikTok and Snapchat?

After quizzing 2,000 UK parents with children aged six to 16, the survey found over three-quarters (75 per cent) were “extremely” or “reasonably” concerned about their child’s safety online. And despite being from a tech-savvy generation, more than a quarter (26 per cent) of younger parents (under 29) didn’t know their kids could live video chat with anyone, while a third were unaware their children could view explicit or violent content.

Parents' top 7 social media concerns

  1. Sharing inappropriate images of themselves - Four in ten (40 per cent) are worried their child may have taken inappropriate images of themselves and shared them online.

  2. Bullying - This is parents' second biggest worry, with 27 per cent fearful that their child might face abuse online.

  3. Being groomed - Around 26 per cent of parents surveyed admitted that they were worried that their child might be groomed online.

  4. Viewing fake news - 23 per cent of parents fear their child will be exposed to false news, while almost a fifth (19 per cent) say their kids have been exposed to fake news.

  5. Being scammed - Around 19 per cent of parents expressed fear that their child would be scammed online.

  6. Access to unsolicited images or videos - More than one in ten (12 per cent) of British parents have discovered their children have seen or been sent unsolicited images or videos online, while a further 16 per cent suspect they have.

  7. Exposure to hate speech - While 12 per cent of parents say their kids have viewed hate speech, 19 per cent were worried their children might view such content.

child with phone on floor
child with phone on floor

Of those parents who are aware their children have received explicit images, 28 per cent only discovered them when looking through their child’s phone, while 26 per cent had discovered explicit images on a shared family cloud. Almost a quarter (23 per cent) had been informed that their child had been sent inappropriate images via another adult. Worryingly, 39 per cent said images or video they had become aware of, had been sent by an adult stranger, while 39 per cent said they had come from someone their own age. More than one in ten (11 per cent) said explicit images were a weekly occurrence, while eight per cent said it happened as often as daily.

Dana Haidan, a spokesperson from Virgin Media O2 said: “The internet is a great place for children to game, study, and connect with friends online, but we know parents want more help on having open and confident conversations with young people so they can use websites and apps safely.

“We’d encourage adults to visit Internet Matters’ website to get advice on speaking to their children and teens about the online world, how to use apps and sites without disclosing their personal information, and the tools and settings they can use to protect their children from viewing explicit content or accessing inappropriate websites or apps.”

In related news, research has revealed that two thirds of parents notice negative effects of screen time on their children, while parents are being warned that excessive screen time is being scientifically linked to abnormal behaviour in toddlers. If you're worried about your child's social media use, we've shared 15 'life-saving' questions to ask them.