For the past fortnight or so, we have been bombarded with a seemingly endless succession of headlines about the perils of young social media obsessives who have been pushed to the brink and beyond.
We have, sadly, now all heard about Molly Russell, the 14-year-old, whose father believes her tragic death was partly down to the fact she viewed graphic content relating to self-harm, suicide and anxiety. Ian Russell’s relentlessly high-profile pursuit for answers as to why his outwardly happy daughter would find herself in such a dark place has caused genuine shockwaves within an industry which has previously appeared almost impervious to impassioned pleas.
Following media pressure, coupled with Government intervention, Instagram has taken steps to remove negative content, such as that showing poor souls self-harming. The fact is, it shouldn’t have taken the zeal of a grieving dad for a social media platform to take the steps that charities and campaign groups have been asking them to take for many years.
My nine-year-old is absolutely desperate for her very own phone and, thus far, we have been resolute in our resistance to this, with vague ‘promises’ that she might get one for her next birthday, if she behaves herself. Is 10 too young for a child, who doesn’t really go anywhere unless she is in the company of an adult, to have a phone? It seems to make some sense for youngsters to have a bog-standard mobile, especially as 10 and 11-year-olds are taking the first tentative steps towards independence, but then there is a debate about whether pre-teens should be given a smartphone. I have heard experts say that children should not be given unsupervised access to the internet until they are at least 14, while my peers share widely differing views.
I have met children who have had their own Instagram account since the age of 11, despite the fact the age minimum limit is 13. Pester power and juvenile obfuscation are winning the day in many a household across the UK, simply because many parents haven’t got a clue about how to deal with this growing menace.