Young people are now using social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, over phone conversations and texting, and almost as much as chatting in person to their friends, according to a new study.
A major consultation by Warwickshire County Council involving 303 young people from around the county, has discussed how they like to communicate with each other, and how they’d like to be communicated with.
Many of the questions were open to all ages, but some were restricted to those aged 14+ where discussing social media only permitted to this age group.
When asked ‘When you are catching up with your interests and want to know about new things how do you get the information?’ the survey found that face to face talking is the highest at 128 young people, but social media is a close second at 113, compared to just 38 reading magazines or 18 chatting on the phone.
Another question asked about communication with friends ‘When chatting what do you use?’ and found that again face to face was highest at 162, but closely followed by social media at 132, ahead of texting each other at 86, phone 93, and email just 22.
The Warwickshire County Council study also asked ‘When we’ve got urgent news how would you like us to contact you?’ and the vast majority opted for Facebook (107), followed by text (88), and email (56).
When questioned about access to the internet, the growth of smartphones, such as iPhones, HTC and Samsung, became apparent with only 30 of the respondents saying they did not have a smartphone, making it possible for young people to access social media and the internet from wherever they are.
The widespread use of social media has prompted Warwickshire County Council to remind young people and parents about keeping safe when updating Facebook or posting tweets.
Cllr Heather Timms, Warwickshire County Council’s Portfolio Holder for Children, Young People and Families, said: “Social media is the fastest growing phenomena on the internet. It provides a brilliant way to stay in touch with friends and share photographs, comments or even play online applications, but if used carelessly can expose you and your children to identity theft and online predators.
“I’m not intending to scaremonger, but parents and young people need to be aware of the risks, and there are a few simple things you can do to make the whole process safer.”
Simple social media rules:
- Pay attention to age restrictions – for example Facebook and Bebo are only for people aged 13 years and older.
- Social networking sites, such as Facebook and Bebo, have a range of privacy settings. These are often setup by default to ‘expose’ your details to anyone. When ‘open’ anyone could find you through a search of the networking site or even through a search engine, such as Google. So it is important to change your settings to ‘Friends only’ so that your details and profile content can only be seen by your invited and accepted friends and don’t forget to remove yourself from search engine results.
- Have a neutral picture of yourself as your profile image. Don’t post embarrassing material.
- You do not need to accept friendship requests. Reject or ignore unless you know the person or want to accept them. Be prepared that you may receive friendship requests or suggestions from people you do not know. It is not a competition to have as many friends as possible.
- Remember you can delete unwanted ‘friends’ from your social networking sites. On some you can also ‘Block’ them as well so they can’t request your friendship again.
- Exercise caution! For example in Facebook if you write on a friend’s wall all their friends can see your comment – even if they are not your friend.
- If you or a friend are ‘tagged’ in an online photo album the whole photo album may be visible to their friends, your friends and anyone else tagged in the same album.
- You do not have to be friends with someone to be tagged in their photo album. If you are tagged in a photo you can remove the tag, but not the photo.
- Your friends may take and post photos you are not happy about. You need to speak to them first, rather than contacting a web site. If you are over 18 the web site will only look into issues that contravene their terms and conditions.
Facebook Privacy information can be found here
The safest way for your Facebook profile to be set-up is for it to be as private as possible, for example only allowing your ‘Friends’ to have access to your information and pictures. It is therefore advisable that you only have ‘real’ friends as contacts on Facebook and other Social Networking sites.
See the image below of the ideal set-up for a Facebook profile. You can find this by following these steps:
1) Click on Account in the top right hand corner of your Facebook page.
2) Choose the Privacy Settings option.
3) You will then see the page below and you can edit the settings to ensure that Friends only have access to your profile and its information.
More information is also available here or here
The most important safety message of all about any contact through social media or the internet is to ‘Never go alone to meet someone you have met online’ and to ‘Never reveal any personal contact details’.
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) is a government backed agency dedicated to keeping children safe on the internet. To find out more, visit: www.ceop.gov.uk
CEOP’s Top Tips for Staying Safe Online are:
- Remember, everyone you meet online is a stranger, even though they might seem like a friend.
- Always use a nickname when you log on and never give out any details that would allow someone you meet online to contact you. That means your full name, home or school address, telephone number, personal e-mail or mobile number.
- If you publish a picture of yourself online, remember anyone can change it or share it, or use it to try and contact you.
- Never arrange to meet up alone with someone you make friends with online, but if you are going to anyway, take an adult you trust and meet in a public place.
- Accepting e-mails or opening files from people you don’t really know, can get you into trouble – they may contain viruses, nasty messages or annoying links to stuff you don’t want to see.
- Talk to an adult you know well and ask for help if you’re worried or upset about anything you’ve sent or been sent online
Young people and parents are advised to visit www.thinkuknow.co.uk to find out the latest information on sites to visit, mobiles and new technologies.
See the links below for full details and advice from Warwickshire County Council on using the internet and social media safely.
An e-safety information booklet for parents, children and young people
Warwickshire e-safety advice for parents and carers