There’s no doubt that children are using social media more and more. Whether in school or at home, children spend a seemingly ever-increasing amount of time using apps and the internet for school work, home work, watching video, playing games – and, of course, social media.

Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, launched a report recently warning of leaving young people to use social media for long periods of time, especially unsupervised, as their quest for "likes" and "follows" becomes their main priority. The report is entitled "Life in Likes" to reflect this daily quest for social validation.

Ms Longfield said, “While social media clearly provides some great benefits to children, it is also exposing them to significant risks emotionally, particularly as they approach Year 7. I am worried that many children are starting secondary school ill-equipped to cope with the sudden demands of social media as their world expands. It is also clear that social media companies are still not doing enough to stop under-13s using their platforms in the first place.Parent montitoring social media

'Social media companies need to take more responsibility'

 “I want to see children living healthy digital lives. That means parents engaging more with what their children are doing online. Just because a child has learnt the safety messages at primary school does not mean they are prepared for all the challenges that social media will present. It means a bigger role for schools in making sure children are prepared for the emotional demands of social media. And it means social media companies need to take more responsibility.

School leaders’ union the National Association of Head Teachers has endorsed the Children’s Commissioner’s reminder of the importance of online safety – and warns that statutory action is vital.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of NAHT said, “Many Primary school age children will have received tech gifts for Christmas, from smart phones to tablets. They are a powerful source of information but they need to be handled with care. The benefits and risks of easy internet access for pupils are clear, so it’s important to find the right balance.

paul whiteman naht warns of social media“It’s vital that schools and parents work together to give young people the tools they need to navigate the internet safely and with confidence. Whilst this is already happening in many schools progress is being held back because Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE) has not yet been given statutory status alongside Relationships and Sex Education (RSE). Online safety, including the impact which social media can have on emotional and mental health, must be seen as part of a bigger picture in schools for pupils of all ages.

“NAHT has long advocated statutory PSHE and age-appropriate RSE, for all pupils in all schools. This is the best way to properly prepare young people for the challenges they will encounter in their adult lives and the current challenges they face beyond the school gates. Statutory status for PSHE, would help young people avoid reaching the ‘Cliff Edge’ that the Children’s Commissioner describes.”

A recent survey conducted by NAHT among schools showed that 91% of school leaders believe PSHE should be taught in regular timetabled lessons in their school. Just under half (49%) say that PSHE and RSE do not have the same status as other subjects but over 90% thought that they should.

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